Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Teresa V. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 22, 2019

TERESA V., Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.



         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in evaluating medical opinions, evidence of migraines, and Plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 11. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         Plaintiff is currently 55 years old, has a high school education, and has worked as a house cleaner. Administrative Record (AR) 23, 42. In September 2013, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of June 1, 2013. AR 120. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 119, 133. After the ALJ conducted a hearing in September 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. AR 31, 13-25.


         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the September 2013 application date.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: obesity, urinary disorder, visual impairment of the right eye, pseudoseizures, fibromyalgia, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive disorder, somatic symptom disorder, and spine disorder.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light work. She can occasionally stoop or climb ramps and stairs, and can never kneel, crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can frequently balance. She can have no exposure to hazards such as moving mechanical parts, unprotected heights, or the operation of a motor vehicle. Plaintiff is limited to less than full field of vision on the right with occasional depth perception. She can perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks with a reasoning level no higher than two. She can handle simple work-related decisions. She can have occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors, and no public contact.
Step four: Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, she is not disabled.

AR 15-25. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. AR 1.


         This Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social Security benefits only if the ALJ's decision is based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017). Each of an ALJ's findings must be supported by substantial evidence. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998). “Substantial evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one interpretation, the Commissioner's interpretation must be upheld if rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir. 2005). The Court “may not reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is harmless.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012).

         A. Migraines

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by failing to include migraines as one of her severe medically-determinable impairments at step two, and failing to include any resulting limitations in Plaintiff's RFC. Dkt. 11 at 15-16. Any error is harmless. Because the ALJ found in Plaintiff's favor at step two, she “could not possibly have been prejudiced” at that step. Buck v. Berryhill, 869 F.3d 1040, 1049 (9th Cir. 2017). And in the RFC determination, Plaintiff fails to show prejudice because she identifies no functional limitations resulting from her migraines. While Plaintiff's treating providers listed migraines among her diagnoses, they did not describe any related limitations and none are apparent from the record. See AR 366, 709. Plaintiff's extensive testimony about her impairments included nothing about migraines. AR 39-60.

         A claimant bears the burden to provide proof that she is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.912(a). And “the burden of showing that an error is harmful normally falls upon the party attacking the agency's determination.” Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009). Plaintiff has not met her burden to show that her migraines are disabling or that the ALJ harmfully erred in evaluating her migraines. The Court concludes the ALJ did not harmfully err in considering the evidence of migraines.

         B. Medical Opinions

         An ALJ may only reject the uncontradicted opinion of a treating or examining doctor by giving “clear and convincing” reasons. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Even if a treating or examining doctor's opinion is contradicted by another doctor's opinion, an ALJ may only reject it by stating “specific and legitimate” reasons. Id. The ALJ can meet this standard by providing “a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making findings.” Id. (citation omitted). “The ALJ must do more than offer his conclusions. He must set forth his own interpretations and explain why they, rather than the doctors', are correct.” Reddick, 157 F.3d at 725.

         1. Navin ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.