United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER
C. Coughenour, United States District Judge.
seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by
rejecting her testimony and four medical opinions. Dkt. 11.
As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's
final decision and REMANDS the matter for further
administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
is currently 62 years old and has worked as a grant writer,
development director, and executive director. Dkt. 7, Admin.
Record (AR) 70, 24. Plaintiff applied for benefits in July
2015, alleging disability as of January 1, 2014. AR 70.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. AR 81, 96. After the ALJ conducted a hearing
in May 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. AR 30-69, 11-24.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found
that from the January 2014 alleged onset date through the
December 2015 date last insured:
Step one: Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful
Step two: Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
mild degenerative disc disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and
chronic fatigue syndrome.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff could perform light
work, standing and/or walking six hours and sitting six hours
per day. She could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and
could occasionally climb ramps and stairs. She could
frequently handle, finger, and stoop, and occasionally kneel,
crouch, and crawl. She must avoid excessive vibration and
concentrated pulmonary irritants or hazards.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work as a
grant writer and an executive director, as generally
Step five: The ALJ did not reach step five.
AR 13-24. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-3.
Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social
Security benefits only if the ALJ's decision is based on
legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017). “Substantial evidence”
is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is
responsible for evaluating evidence and resolving conflicts.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a
whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Thomas v. Barnhart,
278 F.3d 947, 954, 957 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is
susceptible to more than one interpretation, the ALJ's
interpretation must be upheld if rational. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir. 2005). This
Court “may not reverse an ALJ's decision on account
of an error that is harmless.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012).
treating physician's opinion is generally entitled to
greater weight than an examining physician's opinion, and
an examining physician's opinion is entitled to greater
weight than a nonexamining physician's opinion.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1012 (9th Cir.
2014). An ALJ may only reject the uncontradicted opinion of a
treating or examining doctor by giving “clear and
convincing” reasons. Revels v. Berryhill, 874
F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Even if a treating or
examining doctor's opinion is contradicted by another
doctor's opinion, an ALJ may only reject it by stating
“specific and legitimate” reasons. Id.
The ALJ can meet this standard by providing “a detailed
and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical
evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making
findings.” Id. (citation ...