United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
MALINDA K. R., 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
applications 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 when she
failed to properly consider the opinions of Doctors Keri
Tarantino, Matthew Comrie, and Rita Flanagan. Dkt. 9, p. 1,
3-6. Had the ALJ properly considered these doctors'
opinions, the ALJ may have found Plaintiff had additional
severe impairments at Step Two of the sequential evaluation
process and Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) may have included additional limitations.
The ALJ's error is therefore harmful, and this matter is
reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) to the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 6, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of September 10, 2015. See
Dkt. 7, Administrative Record (“AR”) 15, 17. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 15. A hearing was held
before ALJ Marilyn S. Mauer on October 11, 2017. AR 30-64. In
a decision dated April 5, 2018, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
to be not disabled. AR 15-25. 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, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by failing
to find Plaintiff suffered from a severe mental impairment at
Step Two of the sequential evaluation process. Dkt. 9, p. 1.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ improperly discounted
the medical opinions of Drs. Tarantino, Comrie, and Flanagan.
Dkt. 9, p. 1, 3-6.
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 erred in finding Plaintiff's mental
impairment was not severe at Step Two of the
maintains the ALJ erred by failing to find Plaintiff suffered
from a severe mental impairment at Step Two of the sequential
evaluation process. Dkt. 9, p. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges the ALJ's finding at Step Two is inconsistent
with the medical opinions of Drs. Tarantino, Comrie, and
Flanagan. Id. at pp. 2-6. Plaintiff essentially
contends the ALJ's consideration of three medical
opinions resulted in an error at Step Two. See Dkt.
6. Therefore, the Court analyzes whether the ALJ properly
considered the medical opinions of Drs. Tarantino, Comrie,
contends the ALJ improperly rejected Dr. Tarantino's
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. 1996) (citing Embrey v. Bowen, 849
F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); Pitzer v. Sullivan,
908 F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990)). 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