United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
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
application for a period of disability 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.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when she
failed to provide germane reasons for giving minimal weight
to Ms. Amanda Allender's opinion, and when she failed to
provide specific, legitimate reasons supported by substantial
evidence for giving minimal weight to the opinions of Drs.
Sue Romanick and Marcia Jordan. Had the ALJ properly
considered these opinions, the 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
August 17, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of March 6, 2013, through March 31,
2014. See Dkt. 8, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 18, 20. The application was denied upon
initial administrative review and on reconsideration.
See AR 18. A hearing was held before ALJ Laura
Valente on November 7, 2017. See AR 18. In a
decision dated May 30, 2018, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to
be not disabled. See AR 29. 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 18; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1)
failing to properly evaluate the opinions of Ms. Allender and
Drs. Romanick and Jordan; (2) failing to provide clear and
convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's subjective
symptom testimony; and (3) failing to provide germane reasons
for rejecting the testimony of Plaintiff's husband. Dkt.
10, pp. 3-16.
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
asserts the ALJ failed to provide germane reasons for
rejecting Ms. Allender's opinion and failed to provide
specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting Drs.
Romanick's and Jordan's opinions. Dkt. 10, pp. 3-16.
contends the ALJ failed to provide germane reasons for
rejecting Ms. Allender's opinion.
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 830-831 (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
can accomplish this by “setting out a detailed and
thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical
evidence, stating [her] 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)). “Other medical
source” testimony “is competent evidence that an
ALJ must take into account, ” unless the ALJ
“expressly determines to disregard such testimony and