United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
LADRINA Y. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of Defendant's denial of her 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 when she
failed to provide specific, legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence for giving little weight to the medical
opinions of Drs. Chinyere Obimba, Arthur Davis, and Kathleen
Andersen. Had the ALJ properly considered the opinions of
these three doctors, the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) may have included additional limitations.
The ALJ's errors are therefore not harmless, 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 (“Commissioner”) for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
29, 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging disability as of May 27, 2010. See Dkt. 9,
Administrative Record (“AR”) 60, 312, 881
(Plaintiff amended her disability onset date from May 28,
2011 to May 27, 2010 at the first ALJ hearing). The
applications were denied upon initial administrative review
and on reconsideration. See AR 881. On May 1, 2013,
ALJ Ilene Sloan found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 32-49, 881.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's administrative
appeal, making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of
the Commissioner. See AR 1-4; 20 C.F.R. §
404.981, § 416.1481. Plaintiff appealed to the United
States District Court for the Western District of Washington,
which remanded the case for further proceedings. See
AR 989-1002; Davis v. Colvin, 2:14-CV-1484-RSM-JPD
remand, Plaintiff received a second hearing before ALJ Sloan,
who again found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 881-97, 908-45.
Plaintiff did not request review of the ALJ's decision by
the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's June 21, 2017
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See
AR 879. Plaintiff now appeals the ALJ's June 21, 2017
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by failing
to: (1) properly consider the medical opinion evidence; and
(2) provide clear and convincing reasons for discounting
Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony. Dkt. 13, p. 1.
Plaintiff requests the Court remand this case for an award of
benefits. Id. at p. 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 considered the medical opinion
contends the ALJ erred in her evaluation of the medical
opinions of Drs. Chinyere Obimba, M.D., Arthur Davis, Ph.D.,
and Kathleen Andersen, M.D., and Physician's Assistant
Jeannie Chang. Dkt. 13, pp. 9-18.
Acceptable Medical Sources
first asserts the ALJ failed to provide specific and
legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence for
discounting the medical opinions of Drs. Obimba, Davis, and
Andersen. Dkt. 13, pp. 9-13, 14-19.
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.
February 1, 2016, Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Obimba, wrote a letter stating Plaintiff was unable to work
at that time due to an inability to control her pain. AR
1778-79. She opined it would take Plaintiff one to two years
to control her impairments to the point she could return to
work. AR 1778.
Obimba also wrote a letter and completed a Medical Assessment
of Ability to do Work-Related Activities (Physical) and a
Mental Impairment Questionnaire on December 15, 2016. AR
1911-17. Dr. Obimba opined that Plaintiff's fibromyalgia,
asthma, anxiety, and depression caused functional
limitations. AR 1911-17. She found Plaintiff had the
• Plaintiff can lift less than ten pounds occasionally;
• Plaintiff can stand two to four hours in an eight hour
• Plaintiff can sit, so long as she can periodically
alternate between ...