Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Beltran v. Berryhill

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

March 29, 2018

NANCY A BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.


          David W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Jonathan Beltran filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's applications for supplemental security income (“SSI”) and 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. 5.

         After considering the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in her treatment of two medical opinions. Had the ALJ properly considered these medical opinions, 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.


         On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and DIB, alleging disability as of December 10, 2009. See Dkt. 8, Administrative Record (“AR”) 20. The applications were denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See AR 20. ALJ Stephanie Martz held a hearing on February 4, 2016. See AR 43-68. In a decision dated March 24, 2016, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 20-36. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-3; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.

         In Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to give specific and legitimate reasons to discount medical opinion evidence from examining physician Dr. Rahul Khurana, M.D., and treating physician Dr. Caitlin Enright, M.D.; (2) improperly assessing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”); and (3) failing to provide clear and convincing reasons to discount Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony. Dkt. 10, pp. 2-15. Plaintiff argues that as a result of these errors, an award of benefits is appropriate. Id. at 15-16.


         Pursuant 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 Cir. 1999)).


         I. Whether the ALJ properly considered the medical opinion evidence.

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in her treatment of the medical opinion evidence from Drs. Khurana and Enright. Dkt. 3, pp. 3-10.

         The ALJ must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for rejecting the uncontradicted opinion of either a treating or examining physician. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Pitzer v. Sullivan, 908 F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990); Embrey v. Bowen, 849 F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988)). When a treating or examining physician's opinion is contradicted, the opinion can be rejected “for specific and legitimate reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the record.” Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31 (citing Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1043 (9th Cir. 1995); Murray v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir. 1983)). The ALJ can accomplish this by “setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating [her] interpretation thereof, and making findings.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989)).

         A. Dr. Khurana

         First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in her treatment of medical opinion evidence from examining physician Dr. Khurana. Dkt. 10, pp. 3-8.

         Dr. Khurana performed a consultative psychiatric examination of Plaintiff on July 21, 2014. See AR 393-97. In his evaluation report, Dr. Khurana diagnosed Plaintiff with recurrent and severe major depressive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; panic disorder with agoraphobia; alcohol dependence (in remission); cocaine dependence (in remission); and amphetamine dependence (in remission). AR 395. In addition, Dr. Khurana opined Plaintiff may have a “possible learning disorder.” AR 395.

         Based on Plaintiff's “reliable self-report” as well as Dr. Khurana's “interview [and] observations, ” Dr. Khurana made several findings regarding Plaintiff's ability to conduct work activities. See AR 395-95. Dr. Khurana found Plaintiff had “minimal job skills” and “decreased ability to learn new job skills.” AR 395. Dr. Khurana also opined Plaintiff had “minimal difficulty with simple instructions.” AR 395. However, he was markedly impaired in his ability to make “work-related judgments or carry out more complex instructions” due to depression, anxiety, and a possible learning disorder. AR 395. Furthermore, Dr. Khurana stated Plaintiff had “extreme disability for sustained concentration [and] persistence.” AR 395. Dr. Khurana moreover opined Plaintiff's illnesses made social interactions with the public, supervisors, and co-workers “extremely difficult.” AR 395. Dr. Khurana found Plaintiff would have ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.