United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JEREMY A. N., 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”) and 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. 2.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when she
failed to provide specific and legitimate reasons supported
by substantial evidence for discounting Dr. Peter Weiss's
opinion. Had the ALJ properly weighed Dr. Weiss's
opinion, 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 the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
17, 2015, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging disability as of December 28, 2014. See
Dkt. 13, Administrative Record (“AR”) 22. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 22. A hearing was held
before ALJ Rebecca L. Jones on August 27, 2017. See
AR 22. In a decision dated January 8, 2018, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR 38.
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; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1)
failing to properly evaluate the medical evidence,
specifically the opinions of Drs. Weiss, Greg Saue, Drew
Stevick, Jamie McKenzie, and Amir Atabeygi; (2) failing to
properly evaluate Plaintiff's subjective symptom
testimony; and (3) improperly determining Plaintiff's
RFC. Dkt. 17, p. 2-17.
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 opinion
contends the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinions of
Drs. Weiss, Saue, Stevick, McKenzie, and Atabeygi. Dkt. 17,
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 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)).
Weiss completed a psychological evaluation of Plaintiff on
April 19, 2017, which he summarized on a Department of Social
and Health Services form. AR 504. He diagnosed Plaintiff with
major depressive disorder, anxiety, and borderline
intellectual functioning. AR 505. Dr. Weiss opined Plaintiff
has marked limitations in understanding, remembering, and
persisting in tasks following detailed instructions. AR 506.
He also opined Plaintiff has severe limitations in performing
activities within a schedule, maintaining regular attendance,
being punctual within customary ...