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Young v. Berryhill

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

February 20, 2018

MARK YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Mark Young appeals the ALJ's decision finding him not disabled. Dkt. 3. He contends the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinions of Robert Schneider, M.D., and his testimony about his limitations. As relief he contends the Court should remand the case for an award of benefits or alternatively for further administrative proceedings. Dkt. 9 at 1, 9. For the reasons below, the Court finds the ALJ harmfully erred and REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the case for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. ALJ'S DECISION

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

Step one: Mr. Young has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 2015.
Step two: Degenerative disc disease, cervical and lumbar spine; obstructive sleep apnea; hypothyroidism; neurogenic bladder with urinary incontinence; degenerative joint disorder/arthritis of the bilateral hands are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Young can perform light work with numerous postural and environmental limitations.
Step four: Mr. Young can perform past relevant work as a telephone sales representative and sales manager and is therefore not disabled.

AR 21-29. The Appeals Council denied review making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ's Evaluation of the Opinions of Robert Schneider, M.D.

         Mr. Young contends the ALJ erroneously rejected Dr. Schneider's opinions about the severity of his limitations. In 2015, after examining Mr. Young and reviewing his medical records, Dr. Schneider opined that based upon “history and physical examination, ” Mr. Young “is extremely limited in activities of daily living at any work site.” AR 490. Dr. Young indicated Mr. Young's neurogenic bladder causes frequent voiding and incontinence that greatly embarrasses Mr. Young at work. The doctor also opined “this condition as well as arthralgia from previous injuries in both hands related to DJD, fatigue from sleep apnea, post-operative loss of full range of motion left elbow and shoulder are substantial barriers to a successful occupational placement.” Id. Dr. Schneider further opined “mild to moderate depression as a consequence to multiple injuries to the upper extremities and neck with chronic pain is significant when combined with a neurogenic bladder.” Id.

         The ALJ gave “little weight” to Dr. Schneider's opinions for four reasons. AR 27. First, the ALJ found the doctor “appears to have relied heavily on the subjective symptoms.” Id. Substantial evidence does not support this finding. If a medical source's opinions are based “to a large extent” on a patient's self-reports of symptoms and not on clinical evidence, and the ALJ finds the applicant not credible, the ALJ may discount the source's opinion. Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2008). However, when an opinion is not more heavily based on a patient's self-reports than on clinical observations, there is no evidentiary basis for rejecting the opinion. See Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2008). Additionally, an ALJ does not provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting an examining doctor's ...


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