United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
THERESA L. FRICKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of his applications for disability
insurance and supplemental security income benefits. The
parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c);
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13.
ISSUES FOR REVIEW
the ALJ commit harmful error in rejecting the opinions of
treating physicians Dinelle Pineda, M.D., and Jeffrey Dassel,
the ALJ commit harmful error in discounting plaintiff's
testimony regarding the severity of his physical impairments?
Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process
to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. The ALJ assesses the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to determine, at step four, whether the
plaintiff can perform past relevant work, and if necessary,
at step five to determine whether the plaintiff can adjust to
other work. Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175
(9th Cir. 2013). The ALJ has the burden of proof at step five
to show that a significant number of jobs that the claimant
can perform exist in the national economy. Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1099 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the
decision is based on legal error, or (2) the decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. Revels v.
Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139
S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). This requires
“‘more than a mere scintilla'” of
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). It must weigh both the evidence that supports, and
evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion.
Id. The Court considers in its review only the
reasons the ALJ identified and may not affirm for a different
reason. Id. at 1010. Furthermore,
“[l]ong-standing principles of administrative law
require us to review the ALJ's decision based on the
reasoning and actual findings offered by the ALJ-not post hoc
rationalizations that attempt to intuit what the adjudicator
may have been thinking.” Bray v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1225-26 (9th Cir. 2009)
The ALJ Erred in Rejecting Dr. Pineda's and Dr.
must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for
rejecting the uncontradicted opinion of a treating or
examining physician. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664, 675 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Ryan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008)). When a
treating or examining physician's opinion is
contradicted, an ALJ must provide specific and legitimate
reasons for rejecting it. Id. In either case,
substantial evidence must support the ALJ's findings.
Pineda examined plaintiff on October 23, 2015. AR 1005-10.
Dr. Pineda opined that plaintiff was markedly limited in his
ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, and carry due to hip and
knee arthritis. AR 1006. Dr. Pineda opined that plaintiff was
unable to meet the demands of even sedentary work. AR 1007.
Dassel was Plaintiff's treating doctor. See AR
999-1001, 1022-1141. Dr. Dassel opined that plaintiff could
stand/walk for less than two hours in an eight-hour day, sit
for less than two hours in an eight-hour day, and lift or
carry up to ten pounds rarely. AR 1015. Dr. Dassel opined
that plaintiff would need unscheduled rest breaks, and would
be absent three or more days per month due to his pain. AR
gave little weight to Dr. Pineda's and Dr. Dassel's
opinions. AR 24. The ALJ reasoned that the doctors'
opinions (1) were inconsistent with the objective medical
evidence, (2) were inconsistent with plaintiff's receipt
of primarily conservative treatment, and (3) relied on
plaintiff's report of factors contributing to his pain,
which were not consistent. AR 25. The ALJ further reasoned