United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge.
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 13
(see also Notice of Initial Assignment to a U.S.
Magistrate Judge and Consent Form, Dkt. 3; Consent to Proceed
Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 6). This matter
has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 11, 15, 16.
was working as a janitor, cleaning a vent, when she tore the
medial meniscus in her left knee. AR. 622. Examining
physician Dr. Floyd Sekeramayi, M.D., diagnosed plaintiff
with a chronic left knee medial meniscus tear, and found that
the diagnosis is severely limiting. AR. 715. With respect to
plaintiff's ability to sit, walk, and/or stand, Dr.
Sekeramayi opined that plaintiff's “maximum
standing/walking capacity is at least two hours. . . .”
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) characterized
this evidence as consistent with light work. AR. 40. However,
the ambiguity of Dr. Sekeramayi's opinion with respect to
plaintiff's maximum and minimum ability to walk and/or
stand triggered the ALJ's duty to conduct an appropriate
inquiry and allow for proper evaluation of the evidence.
Moreover, to the extent that the ALJ rejected this portion of
Dr. Sekeramayi's opinion, the ALJ failed to provide a
specific and legitimate reason supported by substantial
evidence. This error is not harmless, as it calls into
question the ALJ's reliance on Dr. Sekeramayi's
opinion in finding that plaintiff is capable of performing
for the reason stated and based on the record as a whole,
Court concludes that this matter is reversed and remanded
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
LISA M. KRZMARZICK, was born in 1965 and was 48 years old on
the amended alleged date of disability onset of June 25,
2013. See AR. 59, 273-79. Plaintiff graduated from
high school and completed a couple of years of college. AR.
61. Plaintiff has work experience as a custodian/janitor,
childcare worker, housekeeper and laundry aide. AR. 364-75.
She left her last employment when she was injured on the job.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“Chronic left knee abnormality, obesity, diabetes,
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, left foot abnormalities, right
radiculopathy, and bipolar disorder (20 CFR
404.1520(c)).” AR. 27.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her husband.
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title
II) of the Social Security Act was denied initially and
following reconsideration. See AR. 156-58, 165-68.
Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before ALJ David
Johnson on November 3, 2015. See AR. 55-87. On
December 17, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in which
the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to
the Social Security Act. See AR. 22-54.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ provided legally sufficient
reasons to reject Dr. Sekeramayi's opinion; (2) Whether
the ALJ provided legally sufficient reasons to reject Dr.
Kawasaki's opinion; (3) Whether the ALJ provided legally
sufficient reasons to reject the lay evidence; (4) Whether
the ALJ provided legally sufficient reasons to reject
plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony; (5) Whether in
light of these errors, the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), hypothetical questions, and step five
finding remain supported by substantial evidence.
See Dkt. 11 at 1.
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 ...