Holt v. Colvin

Filing 12

ORDER affirming Commissioner's final decision and dismissing case with prejudice by Judge Richard A Jones. (PM)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 6 7 ALEISHA HOLT, 8 Plaintiff, 9 v. 10 NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 1 11 CASE NO. 16-1537-RAJ ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE CASE Defendant. 12 13 Alisha Holt seeks review of the denial of her applications for Supplemental Security 14 Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Dkt. 1. The ALJ found Ms. Holt’s deep vein 15 thrombosis, degenerative disc disease, depressive disorder, and anxiety related disorder are 16 severe impairments; that she retains the residual functional capacity to perform light work with 17 some additional limitations; and that Ms. Holt cannot perform past relevant work but she is not 18 disabled because she can perform other jobs in the national economy. Tr. 23-34. The Appeals 19 Council denied Ms. Holt’s request for review making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s 20 final decision. Tr. 1. 21 22 23 1 Nancy A. Berryhill is now the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Nancy A. Berryhill is substituted for Carolyn W. Colvin as defendant in this suit. The Clerk is directed to update the docket, and all future filings by the parties should reflect this change. ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE CASE - 1 1 Ms. Holt contends the ALJ erred by “failing to properly consider the medical opinion of 2 Plaintiff’s examining nurse practitioner.” Dkt. 10 at 1. As discussed below, the Court 3 AFFIRMS the Commissioner’s final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice. 4 5 DISCUSSION 6 Katherine Hester, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner examined Ms. Holt and 7 completed a physical functional evaluation form in July 2013. Tr. 400-02. Ms. Hester opined 8 Ms. Holt was markedly limited in her ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, handle, push, pull, 9 reach, stoop and crouch; that Ms. Holt could not perform even sedentary work; and that her 10 “current limitation on work activities will persist with available treatment for 3-6 months.” Tr. 11 401-02. Ms. Holt argues the Court should reverse the case because “the ALJ gave no reason at 12 all for rejecting the [July 2013] opinion of Ms. Hester’s professional opinion.” Dkt. 3. The 13 record contradicts this argument. 14 The ALJ rejected Ms. Hester’s opinions for two reasons. First, the ALJ found Ms. 15 Hester’s opinions did not include “a detailed functional assessment or diagnostic testing results 16 which support the limitations.” Tr. 30. This is a germane reason to reject Ms. Holt’s opinions 17 because an ALJ may give less weight to a medical opinion that is “brief, conclusory, and 18 inadequately supported by clinical findings.” Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1216 (9th Cir. 19 2005). Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding because Ms. Holt’s July opinion 20 provides no explanation as to how she arrived at her opinions and she did not attach or list any 21 “chart notes detailing examination findings,” or list any test results. Tr. 401. 22 The ALJ also rejected Ms. Hester’s opinions on the grounds that “treatment notes from 23 the same time period reflect essentially normal physical examinations and include a statement by ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE CASE - 2 1 nurse Hester that she sees ‘no reason why [the claimant] won’t be able to be fully functional and 2 working soon.’” Tr. 30, 397, 398, 412. An ALJ may properly reject a medical opinion that is 3 inconsistent with the record. Batson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th 4 Cir. 2004). Further, an ALJ may reject a medical opinion where the source’s opinion is not 5 supported by her own medical records or objective findings. Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 6 1035, 1041 (9th Cir.2008). 7 In sum, the ALJ gave two valid reasons for rejecting Ms. Hester’s opinions. Ms. Holt 8 offers no evidence or argument demonstrating the ALJ’s reasoning is incorrect and thus fails to 9 carry her burden of establishing the ALJ harmfully erred. See Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 10 11 12 409 (2009). For the foregoing reasons, the Commissioner’s final decision is AFFIRMED and this case is DISMISSED with prejudice. 13 14 DATED this 11th day of July, 2017. 15 16 17 18 19 A The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE CASE - 3

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