United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
MEGAN J. C., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. CHRISTEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of Defendant's 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”) erred in her
consideration of medical opinion evidence from Dr. Wendy R.
Eider, M.D., and Dr. Terilee Wingate, Ph.D. Had the ALJ
properly considered these opinions, the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) may have included additional
limitations. The ALJ's error is therefore not harmless,
and this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Social Security
Commissioner (“Commissioner”) for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
February 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of January 31, 2014. See Dkt.
9, Administrative Record (“AR”) 20. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 20. ALJ Marilyn S. Mauer
held a hearing on April 7, 2017. AR 45-75. In a decision
dated September 26, 2017, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be
not disabled. AR 17-41. Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council,
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) properly consider opinion evidence
from Drs. Eider and Wingate, as well as Dr. Joseph D. Byus,
D.C.; Dr. Daniel Davenport, M.D.; Dr. Barney Greenspan,
Ph.D.; and Dr. Robert Vestal, M.D.; (2) provide clear and
convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's subjective
symptom testimony, and germane reasons for discrediting lay
witness testimony from Plaintiff's husband and the owner
of Plaintiff's former employer; and (3) state an RFC
assessment and Step Five findings supported by substantial
evidence. Dkt. 15, pp. 2-19.
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 assessed the medical opinion
asserts the ALJ failed to properly consider opinion evidence
from Drs. Eider, Wingate, Byus, Davenport, Greenspan, and
Vestal. Dkt. 15, pp. 3-9.
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 [her] 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)).
contends the ALJ harmfully erred by failing to state her
assessment of Dr. ...