United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER ACCEPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING
MOTION TO AFFIRM, AND DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
[ECF NOS. 20, 23, 26]
P. GORDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Teniya Davis filed applications for social security
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income on December 1, 2014. The Social Security
Administration denied Davis's application, both initially
and on reconsideration. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Barry
Jenkins held a hearing on June 12, 2017. On November 7, 2017,
ALJ Jenkins published a decision finding that Davis was not
disabled. The Appeals Council declined Davis's request
for review, making the decision the Commissioner's final
decision. Davis seeks review of that decision, arguing that I
should reverse or remand the matter for a new hearing because
the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
August 29, 2019, Magistrate Judge Ferenbach recommended that
I deny Davis's motion for summary judgment and grant the
Commissioner's motion to affirm. ECF No. 26. Davis
objects to Judge Ferenbach's analysis pertaining to Dr.
Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher. ECF No. 27 at 2-5. Davis does not
object to Judge Ferenbach's analysis of the ALJ's use
of Dr. Winkleman's assessment. Thus, I will conduct a de
novo review of only the ALJ's decision pertaining to Dr.
Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)
(requiring district courts to “make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings to which objection is made”);
United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121
(9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (“Neither the Constitution
nor the statute requires a district judge to review, de novo,
findings and recommendations that the parties themselves
accept as correct.”). Having reviewed the record de
novo, I agree with Judge Ferenbach that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence, so I deny
Davis's motion and grant the Commissioner's motion to
party objects to a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation on a dispositive issue, the district court
must conduct a de novo review of the challenged findings and
recommendations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B). The district judge “may accept, reject,
or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge, ”
“receive further evidence, ” or “recommit
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.”
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
review of an ALJ's decision to deny benefits is limited
to determining whether the ALJ's findings were supported
by substantial evidence and whether the ALJ applied the
appropriate legal standards. Jamerson v. Chafer, 112
F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1997). I may set aside the
ALJ's determination only if it is not supported by
substantial evidence or is based on legal error. Id.
“Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance;” it is evidence that
“a reasonable person might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Smolet v. Chater, 80
F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (quotations omitted). If the
evidence is subject to more than one rational interpretation,
one of which supports the ALJ's decision, I must affirm.
Morgan v, Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d
595, 599 (9th Cir.1999). I have the authority to enter
“a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or
without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). I also may order the Commissioner to collect
additional evidence, “but only upon a showing that
there is new evidence which is material and that there is
good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into
the record in a prior proceeding.” Id.
is entitled to disability benefits under the Social Security
Act if she “(a) suffers from a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment . . . that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months; and (b) the impairment renders the claimant
incapable of performing the work that [she] previously
performed and incapable of performing any other substantial
gainful employment that exists in the national
economy.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)).
If Davis demonstrates that she cannot perform her prior work,
the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that Davis can
perform a significant number of other jobs that exist in the
national economy. Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071,
1074-75 (9th Cir. 2007).
Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher's Assessments
argues that the ALJ failed to consider Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher's assessment that she would be limited to
“simple and some 3-4 step tasks.” ECF No. 20 at
10. She argues this limitation conflicts with work requiring
reasoning level two. Id. at 11; ECF No. 25 at 4
(“In this context, simple does not include 3-4
step tasks, but something less rigorous.”) (emphasis in
original)). Davis also argues that the ALJ erred by not
summarizing, describing, or rejecting Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher's residual functional capacity (RFC)
assessments, including the limitation to 3-4 step
instructions. Id. In Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher's RFC assessments, they included the language
“simple and some detailed tasks” in addition to
“simple and some 3-4 step tasks.” See
ECF No. 16-1 at 115, 117-18, 151, 153-54.
Commissioner argues that the ALJ considered Dr. Hawkins and
Dr. Schumacher's medical opinions and properly translated
their medical assessments into an RFC that was more
restrictive than what Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher
determined. ECF No. 23 at 4. The Commissioner argues that the
ALJ's RFC restricted Davis to “simple tasks”
with no production rate pace work and no public interaction,
which is more limiting than Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher's assessments that Davis could perform
“simple and some detailed tasks” or “simple
and some 3-4 step tasks.” Id. at 5. Judge
Ferenbach found that the ALJ considered Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher's opinions because, even if he did not
summarize them, the ALJ's findings are consistent with
their medical assessments and opinions regarding Davis's
ability to perform reasoning level two jobs. ECF No. 26 at 7.
had substantial evidence supporting his determination that
Davis could perform simple tasks corresponding with reasoning
level two jobs. The ALJ included in his determination a
paragraph that the state agency psychological experts
“agreed that the claimant has moderate restriction of
activities of daily living, moderate difficulties in
maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, and pace . . .
.” ECF No. 16-1 at 35. Those experts are Dr. Hawkins
and Dr. Schumacher. See Id. at 101, 135-36. And
while the ALJ's summary does not specifically describe
the 3-4 step limitation, the ALJ adequately provides a
summary of their RFC assessments and notes that he gives them
“great weight.” Id. at 35. Thus,
Davis's argument that the ALJ failed to summarize Dr.
Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher's RFC assessments is
unfounded. See Corthion v. Berryhill, 757 Fed.Appx.
614, 617 (9th Cir. 2019) (“While an ALJ must support
the decision to reject portions of a physician's opinion,
the ALJ is not obligated to explain why he or she accepted
Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher opined that Davis could adapt to a
low-demand work setting consistent with simple and some
detailed work. The evidence suggests that Dr. Hawkins and Dr.
Schumacher used simple and some detailed work/tasks and
simple and some 3-4 tasks interchangeably and did not intend
to imply that “simple” in that context equated to
1-2 step tasks. See, e.g., ECF No.16-1 at 93-106
(disability determination explanation where Dr. Hawkins uses
the two phrases to describe the same conduct and directs the
reader to “see the PRT/MRFC for simple and some
detailed tasks with limited public contact”);
id. at 138 (describing that Davis can maintain
concentration, pace and persistence for simple and some
detailed tasks on the top of the page and then providing the
same description but using simple and some 3-4 step tasks at
the bottom of the page). Nowhere in the record did Dr.
Hawkins or Dr. Schumacher discuss 1-2 step tasks.
limited Davis to no public interaction, which is more
restrictive than what Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Schumacher
suggested. See e.g., ECF No. 16-1 at 101
(“Clmt would be best suited to work with minimal social
demands and limited public contact.”). Further, the ALJ
utilized other opinion evidence to reach the conclusion that
Davis could perform simple work. The ALJ gave great weight to
Dr. Winkleman's opinion, which described Davis as being
capable of performing simple work. Id. at 611
(noting Davis could “understand, remember, and carry
out simple and a few detailed tasks.”). The ALJ gave
great weight to all three of the medical assessments that
each found that Davis could perform simple and a few detailed
tasks. Thus, it was reasonable for the ALJ to limit Davis to
simple tasks based on the evidence before him.
the evidence supports the interpretation that the ALJ could
limit Davis to simple tasks without any further limitations,
the ALJ did not err in accepting the vocational expert's
testimony that Davis could perform jobs with reasoning level
two. The Ninth Circuit has held that simple work is
consistent with reasoning level two jobs. See Turner v.
Berryhill,705 Fed.Appx. 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2017)
(“The RFC determination limiting Turner to
‘simple, repetitive tasks,' which adequately
encompasses Turner's moderate difficulties ...