United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge
Joseph Junior Matthews filed this action, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's
denial of Plaintiff's applications for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local
Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter
heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in his
assessment of the medical opinion evidence from Dr. Richard
Green, M.D. Had the ALJ properly considered this evidence,
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) may have
included additional limitations. The ALJ's error is
therefore not harmless, and this matter is reversed and
remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
to the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
13, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging
disability as of March 25, 2013. See Dkt. 6,
Administrative Record (“AR”) 151. The application
was denied upon initial administrative review and on
reconsideration. See AR 151. Thereafter, Plaintiff
had two ALJ hearings. ALJ Glenn G. Meyers held the first
hearing on October 5, 2015. AR 40-80. In a decision dated
October 29, 2015, ALJ Meyers found Plaintiff to be not
disabled. AR 151-66. However, the Appeals Council granted
Plaintiff's request for review, which vacated ALJ
Meyers' decision and remanded Plaintiff's claim to
ALJ Meyers. AR 173-75.
Meyers held a second hearing on October 25, 2016. AR 83-119.
In a decision dated November 28, 2016, ALJ Meyers again found
Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 16-32. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's second request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
See AR 1-4; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, §
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by: (1) failing to include in the hypothetical
questions posed to the vocational expert (“VE”)
that Plaintiff can only stand or sit for up to 20 minutes at
one time; and (2) making a determination in the RFC that
Plaintiff would only be absent twelve times per year. Dkt. 8,
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the
ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss
v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005)
(citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th
Whether the ALJ properly accounted for Dr. Green's opined
limitation that Plaintiff can only stand or
sit for up to 20 minutes.
argues the ALJ erred by failing to include in the
hypothetical questions posed to the VE the opined limitation
from Dr. Richard Green, M.D., that Plaintiff cannot stand or
sit for periods greater than 20 minutes. Dkt. 8, pp. 5-8.
Although Plaintiff frames this issue as the ALJ's failure
to include a physician's opined limitation in the
VE's hypothetical questions, the issue is more accurately
framed regarding whether the ALJ properly considered all of
Dr. Green's opined limitations. See Id. at 7
(Plaintiff noting “[t]he ALJ gave great weight to the
opinion of Dr. Green, who found that the claimant cannot
stand for more than twenty minutes, ” even though the
ALJ failed to include this limitation in the VE's
“need not discuss all evidence presented.”
Vincent ex rel. Vincent v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393,
1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984). However, the ALJ “may not
reject ‘significant probative evidence' without
explanation.” Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562,
570-71 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Vincent, 739 F.2d at
1395). The “ALJ's written decision must state
reasons for disregarding [such] evidence.” Id.
at 571. Furthermore, an RFC must take into account all of an
individual's limitations. Valentine v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009).
Thus, an ALJ errs when he provides an incomplete RFC ignoring
“significant and probative evidence.” Jones
v. Colvin, 2015 WL 71709, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 6,
2015) (citing Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161
(9th Cir. 2012)).
Green provided an assessment of Plaintiff, in which he
described Plaintiff's medical conditions and functional
limitations. AR 1727-33. In relevant part, Dr. Green opined
Plaintiff “is unable to . . . ...