United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel, United States Magistrate Judge.
Michael Allen Shaw 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. 2.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in her
consideration of the medical opinion evidence. Had the ALJ
properly considered this evidence, 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 a de
novo hearing consistent with this Order
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and
DIB, alleging disability as of September 1, 2009.
See Dkt. 8, Administrative Record (“AR”)
15. The applications were denied upon initial administrative
review and on reconsideration. See AR 15. ALJ
Cynthia D. Rosa held a hearing on January 6, 2016. AR 39-77.
In a decision dated April 29, 2016, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 15-32. 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 1-6; 20 C.F.R. §
404.981, § 416.1481.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred in her: (1) consideration of medical opinion evidence
from examining physicians Drs. Steven Gist, M.D., and Peter
Pfeiffer, M.D., and non-examining physicians, Drs. Matthew
Comrie, Psy.D., Thomas Clifford, Ph.D., and Guillermo Rubio,
M.D.; (2) assessment of lay witness testimony and
Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony; and (3)
decision to limit cross-examination of the vocational expert
(“VE”). Dkt. 15, pp. 3-13. Plaintiff requests
this matter be remanded for a new hearing and decision by the
ALJ. Id. at 13.
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 properly considered the medical opinion
maintains the ALJ failed to properly consider medical opinion
evidence from Drs. Gist, Pfeiffer, Comrie, Clifford, and
Rubio. Dkt. 15, pp. 3-7.
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. 1995) (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 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)).
first argues the ALJ erred by giving “significant
weight” to Dr. Gist's opinion yet failing to
account for all parts ...