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McDade v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

November 20, 2017

KATINA MCDADE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER ON SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Katina McDade seeks review of the denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Ms. McDade contends the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred in evaluating: (1) the medical opinion evidence; (2) her own symptom testimony; and (3) the lay witness evidence. Dkt. 9 at 1. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. BACKGROUND

         On September 30, 2013, Ms. McDade applied for benefits, alleging disability as of January 1, 2011. Tr. 22, 165-70. Ms. McDade's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 22, 65-109. The ALJ conducted a hearing on April 15, 2015, at which time, based on the ALJ's inquiry, Ms. McDade amended the alleged onset date to the application filing date of September 30, 2013. Tr. 26, 63. On June 22, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Ms. McDade not disabled. Tr. 22-33.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Ms. McDade has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 30, 2013, the amended alleged onset date and application date.
Step two: Ms. McDade has the following severe impairments: status post lymphoma, degenerative disc disease, asthma, fibromyalgia, migraine, obesity, depressive disorder, and substance abuse.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): Ms. McDade can perform light work with additional limitations. She can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand and walk about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She retains the mental capability to adequately perform the mental activities generally required by competitive, remunerative work: she can perform simple, routine tasks and follow short, simple instructions, do work that needs little or no judgment, perform simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of less than thirty days, respond appropriately to supervision and coworkers, and deal with occasional changes in the work environment. She has no difficulty dealing with the public.
Step four: Ms. McDade cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Ms. McDade can perform, including office helper, electronics accessory assembler, and housekeeper, she is not disabled.

Tr. 22-33. The Appeals Council denied Ms. McDade's request for review making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-9.[3]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Court may reverse an ALJ's decision only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ applied the wrong legal standard. See Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). Even then, the Court will reverse the ALJ's decision only if the claimant demonstrates that the ALJ's error was harmful. Id.

         A. Medical Evidence

         The ALJ must provide “clear and convincing reasons” to reject the uncontradicted opinion of a treating or examining doctor. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). When contradicted, a treating or examining doctor's opinion may not be rejected without “specific and legitimate reasons” that are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Id. Generally, the opinions of treating doctors are entitled to greater weight than the opinions of examining doctors and the opinions of examining doctors are entitled to greater weight than the opinions of non-examining doctors. See Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1012 (9th Cir. 2014).

         1. John Yuen, M.D.

         Dr. Yuen, Ms. McDade's treating doctor, submitted a medical source statement in March 2015. Tr. 1162-67. Dr. Yuen opined that Ms. McDade: could lift and carry up to only 10 pounds occasionally; could sit for 1 hour, stand for 30 minutes and walk for 30 minutes at one time without interruption; could sit for 2 hours, stand for 1 hour and walk for 1 hour total in an 8 hour workday; could reach, handle, finger, feel, push and pull occasionally; occasionally operate foot controls; occasionally climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch but never climb ladders and scaffolds or crawl; could occasionally drive; should never be exposed to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, humidity and wetness, dust, odors, fumes and pulmonary irritants, extreme heat or cold, or vibrations; and should be limited to a quiet ...


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