United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on the Report and
Recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson.
Dkt. 18. The Court has considered the Report and
Recommendation, objections to the Report and Recommendation,
the response to the objections and the remaining record.
26, 2019, the Report and Recommendation was filed,
recommending that the decision of the Commissioner, to deny
the Plaintiff Social Security Disability Insurance benefits,
be upheld. Dkt. 18. The Plaintiff filed objections, arguing
that the Court should not adopt the Report and Recommendation
because the ALJ erred when she rejected the opinions of
examining doctors Victoria McDuffee, Ph.D., Kathleen
Anderson, M.D., and Dana Harmon, Ph.D. Dkt. 19. The Plaintiff
asserts that the: (1) ALJ erred in finding that the opinions
at issue were inconsistent with longitudinal examination
findings in the treatment notes and group therapy notes and
the Report and Recommendation minimizes the ALJ's error
in the finding, (2) the fact that the Plaintiff has flares of
(more intense) symptoms is not grounds to reject the opinions
at issue, (3) there is no evidence that the Plaintiff was
non-compliant with his medication at the time of the
evaluations, (4) the ALJ's reasons for rejecting the
individual opinions of Dr. McDuffee and Dr. Anderson was in
Report and Recommendation (Dkt. 18) should be adopted. The
Plaintiff's objection, that the ALJ failed to properly
consider all relevant evidence in the medical records (of
Plaintiff's abnormal mood and isolation behaviors) and
group therapy notes (indicating he was having difficulties)
when he found that Drs. McDuffee, Anderson, and Harmon's
opinions were inconsistent with the longitudinal examination
findings in the treatment notes and group therapy notes, do
not provide a basis to reject the Report and Recommendation.
“The ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts in the
medical record.” Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008).
“Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's
decision, the ALJ's conclusion must be upheld.”
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
2002). As stated in the Report and Recommendation, the ALJ
properly weighed the evidence and resolved the conflicts in
the record. The medical evidence is susceptible to more than
one rational interpretation, so the ALJ's conclusions
must be upheld. Thomas, at 954.
Plaintiff's objection, that he has more intense symptoms
at times was not a reason to reject Drs. McDuffee, Anderson,
and Harmon's opinions, is not a ground to reject the
Report and Recommendation. The Report and Recommendation
properly notes that the ALJ did acknowledge abnormal findings
in the record, but found that they were not necessarily
indicative of his baseline level of functioning as reported
in the opinions at issue. Further, again, it is the ALJ that
is to resolve conflicts in the medical record, and this Court
will not substitute its' judgment for the ALJ's
Plaintiff objects and argues that there is no evidence that
the Plaintiff was non-compliant with his medications at the
time the three doctors saw him, and so, the ALJ should not
have rejected the three doctors' opinions on the grounds
that their opinions were inconsistent with the longitudinal
record that showed that his symptoms improve when he is
compliant with medications and not using alcohol. This
objection does not provide a basis to reject the Report and
Recommendation. The Report and Recommendation properly notes
that even were it possible to determine whether the Plaintiff
was medication compliant and not using alcohol at the time of
the examinations, the ALJ's finding that their opinions
conflicted with the record and his rational interpretation of
the evidence which supports his decision, must be upheld.
Plaintiff's objection, that the ALJ erred in rejecting
Dr. McDuffee's opinion because it was internally
inconsistent, is not a basis to reject the Report and
Recommendation. The ALJ noted that Dr. McDuffee found that
the Plaintiff had only mild cognitive impairment, but then
opined that he had significant limitations. As stated in the
Report and Recommendation, it is the role of the ALJ to weigh
conflicting medical evidence. The ALJ's conclusion, that
the internally inconsistent nature of Dr. McDuffee's
opinion undermined the entire opinion is not error.
Plaintiff objects to the Report and Recommendation's
recommendation that the Court find that the ALJ properly
considered Dr. Anderson's opinion. The Plaintiff argues
that the ALJ erred when he found that the Plaintiff's
presentation during Dr. Anderson's examination was in
stark contrast to his presentation during other appointments
around that time. The Plaintiff asserts that there is medical
evidence that the Plaintiff was demonstrating abnormal
behaviors and that the ALJ failed to address these findings
in the medical record. This does not provide a basis to
reject the Report and Recommendation. The Report and
Recommendation properly points out that there was a conflict
in the medical record at this time: while the Plaintiff was
exhibiting abnormal behaviors, the ALJ noted that the
treating providers found that typically those behaviors were
milder than those noted by Dr. Anderson. Further, the Report
and Recommendation noted that the ALJ discounted Dr.
Anderson's opinion for several other reasons.
Report and Recommendation (Dkt. 18) should be adopted and the
case dismissed. The ALJ provided specific and legitimate
reasons, supported by substantial evidence in the record to
reject the medical opinions at issue here. The
Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.
The Report and Recommendation (Dkt. 18) IS
The Commissioner's decision IS AFFIRMED;
This case IS DISMISSED.
Clerk is directed to send uncertified copies of this Order to
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson, all counsel of
record, and to any party ...