United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's objections
(Dkt. No. 14) to United States Magistrate Judge Brian
Tsuchida's Report and Recommendations
(“R&R”) (Dkt. No. 13). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby
OVERRULES Defendant's objections (Dkt. No. 14) and ADOPTS
the R&R (Dkt. No. 13) for the reasons explained herein.
action involves Plaintiff Brian Seymour's appeal of the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) denial of
disability benefits. (Dkt. No. 4.) Plaintiff is 39 years old
with a high school education. (Dkt. No. 8-8 at 15.) He has
previously worked as a boatswain and sales attendant.
(Id. at 65-66.) Plaintiff has diabetes mellitus,
post-traumatic stress disorder, a history of ADHD, and
several other ailments. (Id. at 8.) He originally
applied for benefits in October 2012, alleging disability as
of January 1, 2009. (Dkt. No. 8-2 at 21.) The ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled in June 2014. (Id.
at 35.) Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision, and the
Honorable James L. Robart reversed and remanded for further
administrative proceedings. (See Dkt. No. 8-9 at
35-36.) Judge Robart directed the ALJ to reassess the medical
evidence presented by Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Engstrom. (Id. at 51-52.) He also found that the
ALJ's determination that Plaintiff would be off task 14%
of the time was not “supported by substantial evidence
in the record.” (Id. at 49.)
remand, the ALJ again determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Dkt. No. 8-8 at 17.) Plaintiff appealed, and Judge
Tsuchida issued an R&R recommending that the Court
reverse the ALJ's decision, find Plaintiff disabled, and
remand for an award of benefits. (Dkt. No. 13.) Defendant
timely objected to the R&R. (See Dkt. No. 14.)
Standard of Review
party makes a specific objection to a portion of a magistrate
judge's R&R, a reviewing court conducts a de
novo review of that portion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). After conducting the appropriate
review, the district court may “accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. §
makes four objections to Judge Tsuchida's R&R. First,
Defendant asserts that the ALJ properly discounted Dr.
Engstrom's opinion. (Dkt. No. 14 at 2-5.) Second,
Defendant argues that the ALJ appropriately found that
Plaintiff's cataracts were not a severe impairment.
(Id. at 5-6.) Third, Defendant asserts that the ALJ
reasonably found that Plaintiff would be off task 10% of the
time. (Id. at 6-7.) Fourth, if the Court finds that
the ALJ erred, Defendant contends that the case should be
remanded for further proceedings rather than for an award of
benefits. (Id. at 7-9.) The Court addresses each
objection in turn.
Dr. Engstrom's Opinion
opinions of treating physicians are entitled to special
weight and “if the ALJ chooses to disregard them,
‘he must set forth specific legitimate reasons for
doing so, and this decision must itself be based on
substantial evidence.'” Embry v. Bowen,
849 F.2d 418, 421 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Cotton v.
Bowen, 799 F.2d 1403, 1408 (9th Cir. 1986)).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence that a
reasonable person might accept as adequate to support the
conclusion in light of the entire record.” Morgan
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599
(9th Cir. 1999). The Ninth Circuit has also made clear that
“[t]he ALJ must do more than offer his
conclusions.” Embry, 849 F.2d at 421.
Engstrom opined that Plaintiff has marked social limitations,
challenges coping with the activities of daily living and
workplace stress, and that Plaintiff would miss at least two
days of work per month due to his mental health issues. (Dkt.
No. 8-7 at 283-84.) In his R&R, Judge Tsuchida found that
the ALJ failed to give specific and legitimate reasons,
supported by substantial evidence, to reject Dr.
Engstrom's opinion. (Dkt. No. 13 at 5.) Defendant argues
that the ALJ correctly rejected the physician's opinion
because it contradicted other evidence in the record. (Dkt.
No. 14 at 2-5.)
gave two reasons for giving Dr. Engstrom's opinion only
some weight. First, the ALJ found that Dr. Engstrom was
unaware of certain of Plaintiff's self-reported
activities, including his parenting responsibilities and his
relationships with his father and one friend. (Dkt. No. 8-8
at 13.) The ALJ reasoned that this evidence contradicted Dr.
Engstrom's opinion that Plaintiff had marked limitations
with social functioning and the activities of daily living.
(Id.) Second, the ALJ gave little weight to Dr.
Engstrom's opinion because Plaintiff ...