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.

Carol B. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 13, 2020

CAROL B., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Carol B. seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. She contends the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of her treating physician and her subjective complaints and thereby erred in assessing her residual functional capacity. Dkt. 10. The Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Dr. Kanjo's opinion

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinions of treating physician Zayan Kanjo, M.D. Dkt. 10 at 3. In general, the ALJ must give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting a treating doctor's opinion that is contradicted by another doctor, and clear and convincing reasons for rejecting a treating doctor's uncontradicted opinion. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830-31 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Dr. Kanjo completed a functional assessment in April 2012 in which he opined that plaintiff could lift a maximum of 20 pounds and frequently lift 10 pounds. Tr. 547. He wrote in April 2013 that plaintiff had severe arthritis and had applied for disability; it was his judgment that she could not return to work. Tr. 559. In a March 2012 treatment note, he opined that she could not return to her past work as a meat cutter, stating: “It is my judgment that she is incapacitated for her duties as a meat-cutter in a cold environment.” Tr. 615. The ALJ gave these opinions significant weight to the extent they supported the ALJ's residual functional capacity finding but stated that issues of disability are reserved to the Commissioner and the vocational expert was able to identify jobs that plaintiff could perform at a restricted level of light work. Tr. 28.

         Dr. Kanjo also completed a medical source statement in October 2013 in which he opined that plaintiff could sit and stand or walk for less than 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, she could occasionally lift 10 pounds, and she could occasionally reach, frequently handle, and rarely finger; he opined she was “unable to work secondary to rheumatoid arthritis.”[1] Tr. 681. The ALJ gave this opinion little weight, finding that the physical examinations did not support the assessment of standing and walking restrictions, particularly the findings where she demonstrated an intact gait with normal motor strength and the more recent records that show full weightbearing with no assistive device and no significant limp. Tr. 28. The ALJ also found that Dr. Kanjo's own treatment record noted that plaintiff had normal movement in all her extremities, which the ALJ found to be inconsistent with such a restrictive residual functional capacity. Id.

         Plaintiff argues that the findings the ALJ cited to in rejecting Dr. Kanjo's opinion that she could perform less than sedentary work were measures of plaintiff's performance on one-time maneuvers in a clinical setting and gave no picture of her ability to sit, stand, or walk for prolonged periods of time. Dkt. 10 at 5. She asserts that Dr. Kanjo based his opinion on his observations of plaintiff over several years, her subjective reporting to him, and his understanding of the disease process and the likelihood of any significant improvement. Id.

         An ALJ may give less weight to an opinion that is inconsistent with other evidence in the record. Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 2004). The ALJ cited to records that included Dr. Kanjo's treatment note from June 2013, where he noted plaintiff's musculoskeletal system had overall normal findings and she had normal gait and stance, and his November 2015 treatment note, where he documented normal movement of all extremities. Tr. 656. The ALJ could rationally conclude that Dr. Kanjo's opinion was inconsistent with these findings. And although plaintiff proposes reasons the ALJ could have given weight to Dr. Kanjo's opinion, the Court cannot accept her proposed interpretation over the ALJ's. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). The ALJ was not required to discount the clinical findings because they were “one-time maneuvers” or to accept Dr. Kanjo's opinion for the reasons plaintiff proposes.

         Plaintiff also notes that she had spinal fusion surgery three months after Dr. Kanjo gave this opinion and argues that the ALJ erred by failing to consider the evidence in light of this surgery. Dkt. 10 at 5. However, plaintiff does not cite to any records documenting functional limitations from that surgery, and the Court finds no error in the ALJ's failure to speculate on the impact of the upcoming surgery on Dr. Kanjo's opinion.

         Finally, plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to explain why he rejected Dr. Kanjo's opinions on plaintiff's reaching, handling, and fingering limitations. Dkt. 10 at 5. However, the ALJ gave valid reasons for giving little weight to the opinion; he was thus not required to explain the reasons for the weight he gave to each specific component. And the ALJ included some limitations in these areas: occasional overhead reaching with the left arm, frequent bilateral overhead reaching with the right arm, and frequent bilateral fingering. Tr. 25. The ALJ gave specific and legitimate reasons, supported by substantial evidence, to discount Dr. Kanjo's October 2013 opinion, and included the limitations the ALJ found to be supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Court finds no error in the ALJ's assessment of Dr. Kanjo's opinion.

         B. Plaintiff's allegations

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in evaluating her subjective allegations about her osteoarthritis and her back impairment. Dkt. 10 at 6. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to discuss her allegations about the impact of her osteoarthritis on her ability to use her hands and failed to give valid reasons for rejecting her allegations about the impact of her back impairment. Dkt. 10 at 8-9.

         Where, as here, the ALJ did not find that plaintiff was malingering, the ALJ must provide clear and convincing reasons to reject her testimony. See Vertigan v. Halter, 260 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 2001). An ALJ does this by making specific findings supported by substantial evidence. “General findings are insufficient; rather, the ALJ must identify what testimony is not credible and what evidence undermines the claimant's complaints.” Lester, 81 F.3d at 834. Although the ALJ can consider whether the objective medical evidence supports the claimant's subjective ...


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.