United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE
A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Maha I. seeks review of the denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income. She contends the ALJ
misevaluated the medical opinion evidence, erroneously failed
to find her impairments met or equaled a listing, and erred
in evaluating her residual functional capacity. Dkt. 10. The
Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final
decision and DISMISSES the case with
is currently 49 years old, has one year of college education,
and has no past relevant work. Tr. 44, 56, 174. She applied
for benefits in July 2015, alleging disability as of her
application date. Tr. 174. After her application was denied
initially and on reconsideration, the ALJ conducted a hearing
and, on February 27, 2018, issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 15-29. The Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found
that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the application date; she had the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism,
asthma, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of
bilateral knees, hip joint labral tear, obesity, depression,
and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and these
impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a
listed impairment. The ALJ found that plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work with
additional physical and mental limitations. Tr. 20-21. The
ALJ found that plaintiff has no past relevant work, but there
are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that plaintiff can perform. Tr. 28. Accordingly, the
ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 28-29.
argues that the ALJ erred in evaluating the opinions of
treating doctor Shawn Meyers, M.D., examining doctor Kathleen
Andersen, M.D., and treating psychiatric provider Lakew
Adnew, DNP-c, PMHNP-BC. Dkt. 10 at 3. In general, the ALJ
must give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting a
treating or examining doctor's opinion that is
contradicted by another doctor, and clear and convincing
reasons for rejecting a treating or examining doctor's
uncontradicted opinion. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d
821, 830-31 (9th Cir. 1996).
Meyers completed a documentation request for medical
disability form in February 2017. He identified
plaintiff's diagnoses as labral tear of the hip, low back
pain, and depression and indicated that these were supported
by testing, lab reports, or other means. Tr. 403. He opined
that plaintiff had pain with standing, walking, laying on her
side, lifting, and with sitting longer than 5 minutes, and
she was unable to participate in work activity. Id.
He opined that plaintiff was unable to lift at least 2 pounds
or unable to stand or walk, and her condition was permanent.
Tr. 404. He recommended continued physical therapy for her
hip and back pain and a referral back to a surgeon for
further evaluation. Tr. 404-05.
found that Dr. Meyers indicated that he based his assessment
on plaintiff's pain complaints for which he recommended
physical therapy. Tr. 25. The ALJ noted that on the date he
gave this opinion, Dr. Meyers stated in treatment records
that he had completed “disability paperwork for period
of 1 year” and provided a disabled parking pass. Tr.
377. The ALJ gave Dr. Meyers's opinion little weight,
finding that the opinion contained little more than a list of
plaintiff's diagnosed conditions and reported symptoms.
Tr. 25. The ALJ found that the opinion lacked sufficient
supporting evidence of clinical findings to support the
extreme degree of severity alleged, and that it was not
consistent with treatment records indicating “grossly
normal” objective exams and limited, conservative
treatment, including recommendations for physical therapy.
argues that the ALJ erred in finding that Dr. Meyers based
his opinion on plaintiff's pain complaints and asserts
that he based his opinion on plaintiff's physical and
mental conditions which had been established through
objective testing. Dkt. 10 at 4. Dr. Meyers checked a box to
indicate that plaintiff's diagnoses were supported by
“testing, lab reports, etc.” Tr. 403. But he did
not identify what those tests or other objective findings
were or connect them to the functional limitations he opined.
Rather, he identified plaintiff's limitations as
“pain with” performing various activities.
Id. The ALJ's finding that Dr. Meyers based his
opinion on plaintiff's pain complaints rather than
objective testing was a rational interpretation of the
evidence that this court may not disturb. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues that the ALJ erred in finding the opinion to be
inconsistent with treatment notes, as the ALJ did not cite to
specific treatment notes when evaluating this opinion and the
notes the ALJ identified elsewhere in the opinion do not
support this finding. Dkt. 10 at 4. Significantly, although
plaintiff criticizes the notes the ALJ identified, she does
not point to any treatment notes, from Dr. Meyers or any
other provider, that are consistent with or support Dr.
Meyers's opinion. Moreover, the ALJ found that Dr.
Meyers's opinion was not supported by any clinical
findings that showed the extreme degree of severity alleged,
such as neurologic/motor strength, sensory, or gait deficits.
Tr. 25. The lack of supporting evidence was a valid reason to