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Salih v. Berryhill

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

April 18, 2018

NADIYA A. SALIH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          THOMAS S. ZILLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Nadiya A. Salih seeks review of the denial of her application for supplemental security income. She contends the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of her treating physician, Manudeep Mahal, M.D. Dkt. 9. 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

         Ms. Salih is currently 44 years old, is not able to communicate in English, and has worked as a child care attendant. Tr. 30. On June 10, 2013, she applied for benefits, alleging disability as of July 17, 2009. Tr. 19. Ms. Salih's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 19. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on February 9, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Ms. Salih not disabled. Tr. 19-32.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

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

Step one: Ms. Salih has not worked since her application date.
Step two: She has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, congenital spondylolysis of the lumbar spine, and obesity.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Ms. Salih can perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), further limited to occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching; no climbing ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, stairs; no crawling; no concentrated exposure to vibrations, pulmonary irritants, or hazards; and moderate noise intensity.
Step four: Ms. Salih cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: Considering Ms. Salih's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform and thus she is not disabled.

Tr. 21-32. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Treating Physician Manudeep Mahal, M.D.

         Ms. Salih contends the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinions of her treating doctor, Dr. Mahal. The Court concludes the ALJ erred in discounting the treating physician's opinions because he overlooked or misinterpreted extensive clinical and laboratory findings supporting the opinions.

         The Social Security Administration gives added weight to treating doctors' medical opinions, “since these sources are likely to be the medical professionals most able to provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of [the claimant's] medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the objective medical findings alone….” 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2). Treating physicians' opinions must be given controlling weight if they are “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques” and “not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence” in the record. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 631 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527. If the treating doctor's opinion is not contradicted by another doctor, it may be rejected only for “clear and convincing” reasons supported by substantial evidence in the record. Orn, 495 F.3d at 632, citing Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998). Even if contradicted, the treating doctor's opinion can only be rejected for “specific and legitimate” reasons supported by substantial ...


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