United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
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. 3). This matter has been fully
briefed. See Dkt. 8, 9, 10.
reviewing and considering the record, the Court concludes the
ALJ erred in failing to assign controlling weight to the
treating physician's opinion pursuant to 20 C.F.R.§
416.927. Treating rheumatologist, Dr. James Nakashima,
diagnosed the plaintiff with fibromyalgia. See
AR.18. The ALJ assigned little weight to Dr. Nakashima's
medical opinion because it was not consistent with or
supported by the overall medical evidence of record, because
Dr. Nakashima's notes report improvement and stability in
the condition, and because Dr. Nakashima appears to rely
exclusively on anecdotal claims while failing to order
necessary testing. AR. 30. This Court finds that the ALJ did
not offer specific and legitimate reasons in assigning little
weight to Dr. Nakashima's opinion. The ALJ's analysis
of the record appears to amount to cherry-picking wherein he
identifies evidence to support a non-disability finding while
overlooking evidence favorable to the plaintiff. This is not
harmless error because a reasonable ALJ, when granting
controlling weight to Dr. Nakashima's opinion, may have
added additional limitations to the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity and reached a different disability
matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
NEVA THERESE O'NEILL, was born in 1977 and was 34 years
old on the alleged date of disability onset of June 23, 2012.
See AR. 266-71. Plaintiff has completed some college
courses. AR. 63-64. Plaintiff has work experience as a
security guard, travelling with a carnival, working in a fish
cannery, as a receptionist, a bartender, and in a fast food
restaurant. AR. 64-65.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairment of
“fibromyalgia (20 CFR 416.920(c).” AR. 18.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her two young
children and the children's father. AR. 46-47.
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.
82-89, 92-101. The Appeals Council vacated the hearing
decision from plaintiff's first hearing. See AR.
60-81, 102-18, 119-24. Plaintiff's second hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge Steve Lynch (“the
ALJ”) on June 14, 2016. See AR. 38-59. On July
25, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ
concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the
Social Security Act. See AR. 12-37.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) The ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of James
Nakashima, M.D.; (2) The ALJ improperly rejected the lay
witness testimony; and (3) The ALJ improperly rejected the
plaintiff's testimony. See Dkt. 8, p. 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 ...