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
applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and 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. 7.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when she
rejected the opinions of treating doctors William Welsh,
D.O., and Jonathan Grymaloski, M.D., regarding
Plaintiff's physical impairments, and Plaintiff's
testimony on her physical symptoms. The ALJ did not err when
she rejected the opinions of Dr. Welsh, David French, M.D.,
Holly Chatain, Psy.D., Nancy Woods, Psy.D., Sylvia Thorpe,
Ph.D., and Anselm Parlatore, M.D., on Plaintiff's mental
impairments, and Plaintiff's testimony on her mental
symptoms. Had the ALJ properly considered the evidence
regarding Plaintiff's physical impairments, the ALJ may
have found Plaintiff disabled or may have included additional
limitations in the residual functional capacity assessment.
This matter is therefore reversed and remanded pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”) for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 25, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of July 8, 2011. See Dkt. 11,
Admin. Record (“AR”) 59, 103-09. The application
was denied on initial administrative review. See AR
59-70. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Patrick Hannon on October 21, 2013.
See AR 43-58. In a decision date December 13, 2013,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. See
AR 25-36. The Appeals Council denied review on November 21,
2014. See AR 5-8.
sought review of the denial of his application before this
Court. See AR 753-55. On November 9, 2015,
Magistrate Judge Karen L. Strombom entered an order reversing
the ALJ's decision and remanding for further proceedings
under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See
AR 780-86. Judge Strombom found that the ALJ erred in
rejecting Plaintiff's testimony as contradicted by her
daily activities. See id.
March 17, 2015, while her appeal was pending before the
Court, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI and DIB.
See AR 762, 913-21. That claim was denied on initial
review. See AR 762-79. The Appeals Council ordered
these new claims to be consolidated with Plaintiff's
earlier claim, and remanded them all to an ALJ. See
17, 2018, ALJ Stephanie Martz held a second hearing.
See AR 688-722. ALJ Martz issued a decision on
August 31, 2018, once again finding Plaintiff not disabled.
See AR 650-76. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See
AR 636-39; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.984(b)(2),
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by: (1) failing to properly weigh the medical evidence;
and (2) discounting Plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 14, 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 Erred in Weighing the Medical
argues the ALJ erred in rejecting multiple medical opinions.
See Dkt. 14, p. 4-18. Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred
in rejecting opinions on her physical impairments from Dr.
Welsh and Dr. Grymaloski. See Dkt. 14, p. 4-10.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in rejecting opinions on
her mental impairments from Dr. Welsh, Dr. French, Dr.
Chatain, Dr. Woods, Dr. Thorpe, and Dr. Parlatore.
See Dkt. 14, p. 10-18. The ALJ addressed these
opinions in groups, analyzing the opinions on Plaintiff's
physical impairments first, and then analyzing the opinions
on Plaintiff's mental impairments. See AR
666-73. The Court will do the same.
reviewing medical evidence, an ALJ must ordinarily give
controlling weight to the opinions of a treating doctor.
See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir.
1996). The ALJ may nonetheless reject treating doctors'
opinions, but must explain her reasoning. See Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998). When the
treating doctor's opinions are contradicted-as the
opinions here are-the ALJ must give “‘specific
and legitimate reasons' supported by substantial evidence
in the record” for rejecting those opinions.
Lester, 81 F.3d at 830 (quoting Murray v.
Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir. 1983)). The same
standard applies with respect to examining doctors. See
Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31 (citing Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1043 (9th Cir. 1995)).
Physical Impairments - Dr. Welsh and Dr. Grymaloski
Welsh and Dr. Grymaloski are Plaintiff's treating
doctors. See AR 631, 1404. On June 4, 2012, Dr.
Welsh completed a physical capacities evaluation, in which he
opined that Plaintiff could sit for two hours in an
eight-hour day, and stand/walk for one hour. AR 560. He
opined that Plaintiff would need to be able to alternate
sitting and standing at will throughout the day. Id.
Dr. Welsh opined that Plaintiff could occasionally lift or
carry up to five pounds. AR 561. Dr. Welsh opined that
Plaintiff had postural and environmental limitations, as
March 22, 2014, Dr. Welsh completed an impairment
questionnaire, opining that Plaintiff had different
limitations than before. See AR 631-35. Dr. Welsh
opined that Plaintiff could sit for less than an hour in an
eight-hour work day, and stand/walk for less than an hour. AR
633. Dr. Welsh opined that Plaintiff had limitations in
grasping and manipulation. AR 634. But he opined that
Plaintiff could occasionally lift or carry up to 10 pounds.
AR 633. Dr. Welsh opined that ...