United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
RICHARD CREATURA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 13
(see also Consent to Proceed Before a United States
Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 5). This matter has been fully
briefed. See Dkt. 12, 13, 14.
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes
that the ALJ did not commit harmful legal error during the
evaluation of plaintiff's Social Security claim. Although
plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred when evaluating
plaintiff's allegations and testimony, there are many
inconsistencies and conflicts between plaintiff's
testimony at her hearing about her limitations, and the
statements and reports throughout the medical record
regarding her activities and abilities.
although plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when evaluating
the medical evidence, Dr. Chen's January 2015 opinions
were internally inconsistent, inconsistent with the
longitudinal record, and based on plaintiff's subjective
reports, which the ALJ properly rejected.
the Court orders that this matter be affirmed pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
TERESA HASME, applied for disability benefits on June 24,
2013 alleging a disability onset date of November 1, 2003.
See AR. 209-17. The Court notes that the ALJ
erroneously refers to plaintiff's application date as May
2013 throughout the decision. See AR. 29, 35-38,
209-217. Plaintiff was born in 1962 and was 40 years old on
the alleged disability onset date. See Id. Plaintiff
has a tenth grade education. AR. 54-55. Plaintiff has no
relevant work history. AR. 57
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma,
obesity, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance
use disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” AR. 31.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in an apartment
with her adult son. AR. 53.
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act was denied
initially and following reconsideration. See AR.
86-99, 100-14. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge Mary Gallagher Dilley
(“the ALJ”) on February 5, 2015. See AR.
48-84. On October 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision
in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled
pursuant to the Social Security Act. See AR. 26-47.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) The ALJ erred in weighing of the medical opinion
evidence; (2) The ALJ erred in her consideration of
plaintiff's allegations; and (3) The ALJ erred in her
consideration of the lay witness statement. See Dkt.
12 at 1.
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
Did the ALJ err in weighing the medical opinion
argues that the ALJ erred in her consideration of the medical
opinion evidence of treating physician Dr. Fredrick Chen,
M.D. regarding the limitations arising from her carpal tunnel
syndrome. Dkt. 12 at 2-6. Dr. Chen was plaintiff's
primary care physician throughout the period under
consideration. See AR. 312-321, 460-77.
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)). In doing so, the ALJ “has an independent
‘duty to fully and fairly develop the record and to
assure that the claimant's interests are
considered.'” Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242
F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Smolen v.
Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1288 (9th Cir. 1996).
October 2008, over four years prior to plaintiff's
disability application date, Dr. Chen opined that plaintiff
could perform light work with a limited restricted mobility,
agility and flexibility in handling. AR. 316-319. The ALJ
gave significant weight to this opinion, reasoning that it
was consistent with plaintiff's longitudinal examination
findings and overall ...