United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
W. CHRISTEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's
(“Commissioner”) denial of Plaintiff's
application for 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. 3.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not err when
he rejected opinions from four treating sources that
Plaintiff is limited to part-time work. The ALJ also did not
err in rejecting two additional opinions from treating
medical sources, whose opinions include that Plaintiff meets
two mental disorder listings. Lastly, the ALJ did not err
when he found Plaintiff does not meet the criteria for any
mental disorder listing. Because the ALJ's decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of October 8, 2014. See Dkt.
6, Administrative Record (“AR”) 19. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 19. ALJ Jay E. Levine
held a hearing on May 15, 2017. AR 16-35. In a decision dated
October 12, 2017, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not
disabled. AR 16-35. 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.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by failing to: (1) state specific, legitimate reasons
to discount four treating sources - Monique Maio, mental
health therapist, Diana Pickett, Ph.D., M.D., Anne L. Cox,
M.D., and Katherine Bumstead, M.D. - who opined Plaintiff is
limited to performing part-time work; (2) properly reject
another medical opinion from Dr. Cox, and an opinion from
Suzanne Taylor, Ph.D.; and (3) find Plaintiff meets Listings
12.04 or 12.06 at Step Three of the sequential evaluation
process. Dkt. 8, pp. 3-13.
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
contends the ALJ erred when he rejected opinions from Ms.
Maio, Dr. Pickett, Dr. Cox, and Dr. Bumstead finding
Plaintiff limited to performing part-time work. Dkt. 8, pp.
4-9. Plaintiff also argues the ALJ failed to properly
consider two additional medical opinions from Drs. Cox and
Taylor. Id. at p. 9-11.
assessing an acceptable medical source, an ALJ 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)).
medical source” testimony, which the Ninth Circuit
treats as lay witness testimony, “is competent evidence
an ALJ must take into account, ” unless the ALJ
“expressly determines to disregard such testimony and
gives reasons germane to each witness for doing so.”
Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 511 (9th Cir. 2001);
see also Turner v. Comm'r of Soc. Soc. Admin.,
613 F.3d 1217, 1224 (9th Cir. 2010). In rejecting lay
testimony, the ALJ need not cite the specific record as long
as “arguably germane reasons” for dismissing the
testimony are noted. Lewis, 236 F.3d at 512.
Opinions Limiting ...