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Russell v. Berryhill

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

June 13, 2018

KATHLEEN RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Kathleen Russell seeks review of the denial of her May 21, 2014, application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in weighing the medical evidence and her testimony, and that these errors undermine the ALJ's step five findings. Dkt. 9 at 1. As relief, plaintiff requests the Court remand the case for further proceedings. Id. The Commissioner disagrees and argues the ALJ reasonably weighed the medical evidence and reasonably rejected plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 13. 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

         Using the five-step disability evaluation process, set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of April 3, 2013.

Step two: Costochondritis is a severe impairment.
Step three: This impairment does not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light work, except she can lift 20 pounds occasional and 10 pounds frequently; she can sit, stand or walk up to six hours in an eight hour workday; she can frequently use ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, scaffolds, balance, kneel and crawl; she can occasionally stoop or crouch; and she is limited to simple routine tasks.
Step four: Plaintiff is unable to perform past relevant work.
Step five: Plaintiff can perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy and thus is not disabled.

Tr. 17-28. The ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision because the Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1. The rest of the procedural history is not relevant to the outcome of the case and is thus not recounted.

         DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ's Assessment of the Medical Evidence

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in giving no weight to the opinions of Ricardo Castro, D.C., a chiropractor, and in giving partial weight to the opinions of Anmaji Manyam, M.D. Dkt. 9 at 2-3. Plaintiff appears to argue the ALJ did not have a valid basis to give more weight to Dr. Manyam's opinions than to Dr. Castro's opinions. The argument is off-point in that the ALJ did not weigh the two opinions against each other. Rather, the ALJ rejected Dr. Castro's opinions for reasons independent of what Dr. Manyam found.

         The issue before the Court is thus whether the ALJ provided valid reasons to reject Dr. Castro's opinions. Here, the ALJ found Dr. Castro completed a functional capacity evaluation on March 23, 2016, in which he “essentially limit[ed] the claimant to less than a full range of sedentary exertion.” Tr. 25. The ALJ rejected Dr. Castro's opinions on the grounds he is not an acceptable medical source for diagnosis of an impairment; and the doctor is not a ...


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