United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER
A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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. Â§
Dr. Kanjo's opinion
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
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.
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.” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...