United States District Court, D. Oregon
Kerr, Schneider Kerr & Robichaux, Attorney for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney's Office, Alexis L. Toma, Special Assistant
United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social
Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
J. IMMERGUT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sharon J. appeals the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration's (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act. On October 10, 2019, Magistrate Judge Jolie A.
Russo issued her Findings and Recommendation
(“F&R”), ECF 11, recommending that the
Commissioner's judgment should be affirmed and that this
action should be dismissed.
timely filed objections to the F&R. ECF 13. Defendant
filed a response to those objections. ECF 14. This Court has
reviewed de novo the portions of the F&R to which
Plaintiff objected. For the following reasons, this Court
adopts Judge Russo's F&R with the following
explanation and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
the Federal Magistrates Act (“Act”), as amended,
the court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or
in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). If a
party objects to a magistrate judge's F&R, “the
court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of
the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations
to which objection is made.” Id. But the court
is not required to review, de novo or under any other
standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the F&R to
which no objections are addressed. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985); United States v.
Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en
banc). Nevertheless, the Act “does not preclude further
review by the district judge, sua sponte” whether de
novo or under another standard. Thomas, 474 U.S. at
makes two objections to the F&R based on the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”)
discounting of certain medical opinion evidence. First,
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ committed harmful error in
his treatment of mental health opinion evidence,
specifically in disregarding Dr. Poppleton's opinion. Dr.
Poppleton's report included the narrative statement that
Plaintiff “has problem[s] inter-personally.” AR
265. Plaintiff contends that the step-five jobs of usher,
counter clerk and sandwich board carrier identified by the
vocational expert in this case involve dealing with people
which would “create obvious potential problems”
given Dr. Poppleton's opinion. ECR 13 at 2. However, Dr.
Poppleton's opinion included no concrete functional
limitations. See AR 265. Dr. Fligstein, the state
agency psychological consultant, translated Dr.
Poppleton's narrative opinion into concrete functional
limitations and opined that Plaintiff had no social
interaction limitations and had the concentration,
persistence and pace adequate for simple routine tasks and
semiskilled work. AR 75.
Judge Russo correctly concluded, even if the mental health
doctors' opinions were fully credited, performing the
unskilled tasks contemplated in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles for the jobs of usher, counter clerk and
sandwich board carrier is compatible with their opinions. ECR
11 at 7; see Davenport v. Colvin, No.
6:12-cv-00451-CL, 2013 WL 4083580, at *7-8 (D. Or. Aug. 8,
2013) (holding that requirement to perform simple, repetitive
tasks can be sufficient to accommodate a claimant's
moderate limitations in attention, concentration, and social
abilities). As such, any error the ALJ made in discounting
the opinions of Dr. Poppleton and Dr. Fligstein is harmless.
Plaintiff objects to Judge Russo's finding that the ALJ
did not err in rejecting Dr. Engelhardt's medical opinion
regarding manipulative limitations. ECR 13 at 2. Plaintiff
contends that the ALJ impermissibly discounted this portion
of Dr. Engelhardt's opinion based on the opinion of a
non-examining state agency consultant, Dr. St. Louis, who
expressed that the manipulative limitations in Dr.
Engelhardt's exam were “not supported by objective
exam findings.” Id.; see AR 25.
Plaintiff notes that Dr. St. Louis never treated or examined
Plaintiff and did nothing more than reinterpret Dr.
Engelhardt's examination. ECF 13 at 3.
objection fails, however, because a treating physician's
opinion may be rejected in favor of a non-treating
physician's opinion based on the same clinical findings
if the ALJ gives specific, legitimate reasons for doing so
that are based on substantial evidence in the record.
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 755 (9th Cir.
1989); see Ramirez v. Shalala, 8 F.3d 1449, 1453
(9th Cir. 1993) (applying test where ALJ relied on contrary
opinion of nonexamining medical advisor). The ALJ met this
standard when he summarized in a detailed and thorough
fashion the facts negating Plaintiff's evidence of her
alleged carpal tunnel, ultimately finding that
Plaintiff's alleged carpal tunnel did not constitute a
medically determinable impairment. AR 18, 25. This Court thus
concludes that there was substantial evidence supporting the
ALJ's decision to reject the manipulative limitations
portion of Dr. Engelhardt's opinion and agrees with Judge
Russo that the ALJ did not err in discounting it.
Accordingly, this Court adopts the conclusion presented in
Judge Russo's F&R and affirms the Commissioner's
Court has reviewed de novo the portions of Magistrate Judge
Russo's F&R to which Plaintiff objected. This Court
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's ...