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Lopez Capo v. Berryhill

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

March 12, 2018

NICOLAS LOPEZ CAPO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge.

         Nicolas Lopez Capo seeks review of the denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Mr. Capo contends the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinions of Cynthia Collingwood, Ph.D., Matthey Comire, Psy.D., and Gary L. Nelson, Ph.D., and that the Court should remand the case for an award of benefits. Dkt. 9. For the reasons 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).

         THE ALJ’S DECISION

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

Step one: Mr. Capo has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 30, 2012.
Step two: Degenerative disc disease of the back, osteoarthritis of the hip and knee; sleep apenea; coronary artery disease; hypertension; anxiety disorder; personality disorder; and obesity are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Capo can perform light work except he must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards in the workplace. He can perform simple and detailed tasks, but would have difficulties performing complex tasks consistently, He can have occasional, brief, and superficial interactions with the public. He can work in proximity to coworkers and interact briefly with coworkers, but would perform better in more solitary tasks. He can adapt o occasional or less than occasional changes in a work place.
Step four: Mr. Capo cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: Mr. Capo can perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, and is not disabled.

Tr. 22-35. The ALJ’s decision is the Commissioner’s final decision because the Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ’s Evaluation of the Medical Evidence

         Mr. Cabo contends the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinions of Cynthia Collingwood, Ph.D., Matthey Comire, Psy.D., and Gary L. Nelson, Ph.D. The ALJ must generally give more weight to the opinion of a treating physician than to a non-treating physician, and more weight to the opinion of an examining physician than to a non-examining physician. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). An ALJ does this by setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting evidence, stating his or her interpretation of the facts and evidence, and making findings. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ must do more than offer his or her conclusions; he or she must also explain why his interpretation, rather than the treating doctor’s interpretation, is correct. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 632 (9th Cir. 2007). Where not contradicted by another physician, a treating or examining physician’s opinion may be rejected only for “clear and convincing reasons.” Lester, at 830-31. Where contradicted, a treating or examining physician’s ...


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