United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
BENEFITS AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge.
M. has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of her applications for disability
insurance and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13. For
the reasons below, the undersigned reverses defendant's
decision to deny benefits and remands for further
filed applications for disability insurance and supplemental
security income benefits in August 2014, alleging she became
disabled as of March 1, 2014. Dkt. 9, Administrative Record
(AR) 69. Both applications were denied at the initial and
reconsideration administrative review levels. Id. A
hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Id. Plaintiff appeared and testified, as did a
vocational expert. AR 112-45. The ALJ determined that
plaintiff can perform jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy and therefore is not disabled. AR 69-82.
Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court, seeking reversal
and remand for an award of benefits or, alternatively, for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the
decision is based on legal error, or (2) the decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. Revels v.
Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139
S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co.
v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). This requires
“more than a mere scintilla, ” though “less
than a preponderance” of the evidence. Id.;
Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 674-75 (9th Cir.
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). It must weigh both the evidence that supports, and
evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion.
Id. The Court considers in its review only the
reasons the ALJ identified and may not affirm for a different
reason. Id. Furthermore, “[l]ong-standing
principles of administrative law require us to review the
ALJ's decision based on the reasoning and actual findings
offered by the ALJ-not post hoc rationalizations that attempt
to intuit what the adjudicator may have been thinking.”
Bray v. Comm'r of SSA, 554 F.3d 1219, 1225-26
(9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). “If the evidence
admits of more than one rational interpretation, ” the
Court must uphold the ALJ's finding. Allen v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984). It is
unnecessary for the ALJ to “discuss all
evidence presented”. Vincent on Behalf of Vincent
v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984)
(citation omitted) (emphasis in original). The ALJ must only
explain why “significant probative evidence has been
rejected.” Id. The Court should consider that
“‘[w]here there is conflicting evidence
sufficient to support either outcome, '” the Court
“‘must affirm the decision actually
made.'” Id. (quoting Rhinehart v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971)).
ISSUES FOR REVEW
1. Did the ALJ provide adequate reasons to reject an
examining psychologist's opinion?
2. Did the ALJ provide adequate reasons to discount lay
testimony from plaintiff's mother?
3. Did the ALJ provide adequate reasons to reject
4. If the ALJ committed reversible errors, should the Court
remand with directions to award benefits?
Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process
to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step four of that process,
a claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) is
assessed to determine whether past relevant work can be
performed, and, if necessary, at step five to determine
whether an adjustment to other work can be made. Kennedy
v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2013). At step
five, the Commissioner has the burden of proof, which can be
met by showing a significant number of jobs exist in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1099 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
Medical Opinion Evidence
erred in rejecting the medical opinion of an examining
psychologist regarding ...