Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Charity N. v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

December 19, 2019

CHARITY N., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge.

         As discussed below, the ALJ's decision is reversed and remanded for an award of benefits.

         I. ISSUES FOR REVIEW

         A. Did the ALJ commit harmful error by discounting the opinions of treating physicians Dr. Poolos (neurologist) or Dr. Dassel (primary care physician)?

         B. Did the ALJ commit harmful error in finding plaintiff's statements about her condition and limitations were not credible?

         C. Did the ALJ commit harmful error in finding that plaintiff's seizure condition did not meet the criteria for Social Security Listing 11.02(D) concerning dyscognitive seizures?

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the decision is based on legal error, or (2) the decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). This requires “more than a mere scintilla, ” of evidence. Id.

         The Court must consider the administrative record as a whole. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). It must weigh both the evidence that supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion. Id. The Court considers in its review only the reasons the ALJ identified and may not affirm for a different reason. Id. at 1010. Furthermore, “[l]ong-standing principles of administrative law require us to review the ALJ's decision based on the reasoning and actual findings offered by the ALJ-not post hoc rationalizations that attempt to intuit what the adjudicator may have been thinking.” Bray v. Comm'r of SSA, 554 F.3d 1219, 1225-26 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         A. Treating physicians

         The ALJ must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for rejecting the uncontradicted opinion of either a treating or examining physician. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 675 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008)). When a treating or examining physician's opinion is contradicted, an ALJ must provide specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting it. Id. In either case, substantial evidence must support the ALJ's findings. Id. Under Ninth Circuit law, opinions from non-examining medical sources that contradict a treating physician's opinion will trigger the “specific and legitimate reasons” standard of review. See, e.g., Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 662 (9th Cir. 2017).

         An ALJ may not reject a medical source opinion because it is based on the claimant's self-reports when the medical source analyzes those self-reports using objective measures. In Buck v. Berryhill, the court held that the ALJ erred when he discounted the examining physician's opinion on the basis that the “opinion was based in part on [the claimant's] self-report” because the examining doctor “also conducted a clinical interview and a mental status evaluation.” 869 F.3d 1040, 1049 (2017). The court held that the interview and mental status evaluation were “objective measures and cannot be discounted as a ‘self-report.'” Id.

         In this case, the ALJ erred by rejecting evidence from the plaintiff's treating neurologist, Dr. Poolos. AR 30. This neurologist confirmed that plaintiff had seizures two to four times each month, on average. AR 1171. Dr. Poolos specializes in epilepsy and presented plaintiff's case to a team of physicians at the Harborview Epilepsy Center in Seattle - the result was that plaintiff's diagnosis was determined by the Harborview panel of epilepsy specialists to be “refractory epilepsy”. AR 551. This assessment was based ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.