United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. CHRISTEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Larry Wayne Giddings 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
evaluating the March 7, 2016 opinion of treating physician,
Dr. Juliet Liu, M.D. Had the ALJ properly considered Dr.
Liu's March 7, 2016 opinion, the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) may have included additional
limitations. The ALJ's error is therefore harmful, and
this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Deputy Commissioner of
Social Security Operations (“Commissioner”) for
further proceedings consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 30, 2014 and March 8, 2016, respectively, Plaintiff
filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of
January 28, 2014. See Dkt. 11, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 164-65, 176-86. The application was denied
upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration.
See AR 83-106, 110-14. A hearing was held before ALJ
Wayne N. Araki on March 16, 2016. See AR 34-82. In a
decision dated June 24, 2016, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to
be not disabled. See AR 14-33. Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by
the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-7; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by improperly evaluating the medical opinion evidence
of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Liu, and
non-examining State agency physician, Dr. Robert Hoskins,
M.D. Dkt. 13. Plaintiff seeks remand for further
administrative proceedings. Dkt. 13 at 18.
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 evaluated the medical opinion
argues the ALJ erred in evaluating the opinion of his
treating primary care physician, Dr. Liu, and non-examining
State agency physician, Dr. Hoskins. Dkt. 13.
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.
Dr. Liu's Opinions
initial matter, the parties contest the Court's standard
of review. Plaintiff argues the ALJ was required to provide
clear and convincing reasons for giving little weight to Dr.
Liu's three opinions. Dkt. 13 at 7. Defendant argues Dr.
Liu's opinion is contradicted by the opinion of Dr.
Hoskins, who found Plaintiff could perform a limited range of
sedentary work, thus, the ALJ was only required ...