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Nisbet v. Berryhill

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

March 6, 2018

RICHARD L. NISBET, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Richard L. Nisbet seeks review of the denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Mr. Nisbet contends the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) determination fails to account for all of his physical limitations and the ALJ failed to develop the record. 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).

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Nisbet is currently 56 years old, has a high school diploma, and has worked as a cook and laborer. Tr. 43, 45, 60. Mr. Nisbet's applications for benefits, alleging disability as of January 15, 2011, were denied initially April 2, 2014, and on reconsideration June 19, 2014. Tr. 19. The ALJ conducted a hearing on June 3, 2015, in which Mr. Nisbet, through counsel, amended the alleged onset date to February 29, 2012. Tr. 19. After the hearing, Mr. Nisbet submitted additional evidence to the ALJ, which was admitted into the record. Tr. 19. The ALJ issued a decision on October 8, 2015, finding Mr. Nisbet not disabled. Tr. 19-32.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

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

Step one: Mr. Nisbet has not worked since the February 2012 alleged onset date.
Step two: Mr. Nisbet has the following severe impairments: bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post releases, osteoarthritis of the knees bilaterally, neuralgias of the feet and ankles bilaterally, and obesity.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Nisbet can perform less than the full range of light work, limited to: occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; no climbing ropes, ladders or scaffolds; frequent stooping; occasional crouching, crawling and kneeling; frequent pushing and pulling with bilateral upper and lower extremities; frequent but not constant handling and fingering bilaterally; avoiding concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards.
Step four: Mr. Nisbet cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform, Mr. Nisbet is not disabled.

Tr. 21-31. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Nisbet's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 3.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         Mr. Nisbet contends the ALJ's RFC determination fails to account for limitations on standing and on repetitive hand movements, which are established by medical and other opinions to which the ALJ gave weight. Mr. Nisbet also argues that the ALJ erred in discounting his testimony as to his wrist impairments, and erred in failing to obtain certain medical documents to fully develop the record.

         A. Medical Source Opinion Evidence

         Where a treating or examining doctor's opinion is not contradicted by another doctor, it may be rejected only for clear and convincing reasons. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). Where contradicted, a treating or examining physician's opinion may not be rejected without “specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence in the record for so doing.” Id. at 830-31. “An ALJ can satisfy the ‘substantial evidence' requirement by ‘setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making findings.'” Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1011 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998)). The ALJ is responsible for evaluating credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).

         B. Four ...


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