United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JOSEPH I. ROSENZWEIG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
W. CHRISTEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Joseph I. Rosenzweig filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial
of Plaintiff's application for 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.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly
assessed the medical opinion of Dr. Anita Afzali M.D.,
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), and the 12-month durational requirement
to establish disability. As the ALJ's decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled is supported by substantial evidence,
the Commissioner's decision is affirmed pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of February 26, 2013. See
Dkt. 8, Administrative Record (“AR”) 68-74. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 68-75. A hearing was held
before ALJ Glenn G. Meyers on November 17, 2016. See
AR 26-35. A subsequent hearing was held on April 4, 2017 for
the purpose of obtaining additional medical records, and
Plaintiff amended his disability application to a closed
period of disability from February 26, 2013 through January
15, 2017. AR 36-67. In a decision dated April 17, 2017, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR
10-25. On September 13, 2017, Plaintiff's request for
review of the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals
Council, making the ALJ's April 17, 2017 decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-6; 20
C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by: (1) failing to properly analyze the medical opinion
evidence of Dr. Afzali; (2) failing to account for the
limitations related to Plaintiff's severe ulcerative
colitisor inflammatory bowel disease
(“IBD”) in the RFC; and (3) concluding Plaintiff
did not meet the durational requirement to establish
disability during the closed period. Dkt. 10.
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
Whether the ALJ erred by failing to properly analyze the
medical opinion evidence.
alleges the ALJ failed to properly consider the medical
opinion evidence of treating physician, Dr. Afzali. Dkt. 10
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 Embrey v. Bowen, 849
F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); Pitzer v. Sullivan,
908 F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990)). 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 his 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)).
case, the only medical opinion evidence comes from Dr.
Afzali, Plaintiff's treating gastroenterologist. In
September 2016, Dr. Afzali diagnosed Plaintiff with IBD. AR
Afzali noted the length of contact with Plaintiff was
approximately one year. AR 247, 251. Dr. Afzali completed two
check-box medical opinion questionnaires, one for
Plaintiff's physical activities and another for his
mental impairments. See AR 247-253. With respect to
Plaintiff's physical activities, Dr. Afzali opined
Plaintiff needed to take unscheduled breaks three to four
times per day, each lasting ten minutes. AR 247. She opined
Plaintiff would be absent from work more than twice per
month. AR 249. With respect to Plaintiff's mental
impairments, she opined Plaintiff had a fair ability to
maintain attention for two-hour periods and maintain regular
attendance and be punctual with customary, usually strict
tolerances. AR 252. She opined Plaintiff's mental
impairments would cause him to be absent from work about
twice per month. AR 253.
stated he gave minimal weight to Dr. Afzali's opinion
because: (1) Dr. Afzali's opinion was inadequately
supported by the clinical findings and (2) Dr. Afzali's