United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND
REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
S. ZILLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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).
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.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the September 2013
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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