United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ZHABRAISHA A. S., 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 supplemental security income
(“SSI”). 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. 4.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when he
failed to provide specific, legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence for giving little weight to Dr. Curtis
Greenfield's medical opinion. Had the ALJ properly
considered Dr. Greenfield's opinion, 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
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability as of August 1, 2013. See Dkt.
6, Administrative Record (“AR”) 15. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 15. A hearing was held
before ALJ Lawrence Lee on April 11, 2018. AR 15. In a
decision dated June 28, 2018, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to
be not disabled. AR 23-24. 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 15; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981,
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by failing to properly consider the medical opinion of
Dr. Greenfield. Dkt. 8, p. 1.
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 considered the medical
contends the ALJ improperly evaluated Dr. Greenfield's
opinion. Dkt. 8, p. 1.
must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for
denying an 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 either a treating or
an examining physician's opinion is contradicted, the ALJ
may deny the opinion “for specific and legitimate
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-831 (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 may do so by setting out “a
detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting
clinical evidence, stating his 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)).
October 11, 2016, Dr. Greenfield completed a
Psychological/Psychiatric Evaluation of Plaintiff, which
included a clinical interview and a mental status exam
(“MSE”). AR 462-466. He diagnosed Plaintiff with
Stimulant Use Disorder, Cannabis Use Disorder, Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”), Bipolar
Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. AR 464. Dr.
Greenfield opined Plaintiff was markedly impaired in her
ability to perform the following basic work activities:
perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular
attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances
without special supervision; adapt to changes in a routine
work setting; be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate
precautions; ask simple questions or request assistance;