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Rodolfo Estrada-Farfan v. Michael J. Astrue

May 31, 2012

RODOLFO ESTRADA-FARFAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles F. Eick United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on September 12, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on October 5, 2011. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment or remand on February 17, 2012. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on May 3, 2012. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed September 15, 2011.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges disability since November 1, 2006, based primarily on alleged orthopedic problems (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 37-52, 157-68). Dr. Gerardo Canchola, apparently one of Plaintiff's treating physicians,*fn1 opined in a "Physical Capacity Evaluation" that Plaintiff could not lift any weight and could not perform any grasping or manipulation with his left hand (A.R. 407).

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff "has the following severe impairment: status post left shoulder surgery and cervical spine spurs with left foraminal impingement," but retains the ability to work (A.R. 20-24). The ALJ rejected Dr. Canchola's contrary opinions, stating:

The undersigned give [sic] Dr. Canchola's opinion little weight in making this decision. There are few treatment records in evidence from Dr. Canchola, who [sic] the claimant apparently saw on two occasions. No basis is provided for the assessed limitations. There is no credible support in the record for assessing the claimant as unable to lift any weight, grasp or manipulate items with the hands. There are other more persuasive medical source opinions of record.

(A.R. 22-23). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

DISCUSSION

A treating physician's conclusions "must be given substantial weight." Embrey v. Bowen, 849 F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); see Rodriguez v. Bowen, 876 F.2d 759, 762 (9th Cir. 1989) ("the ALJ must give sufficient weight to the subjective aspects of a doctor's opinion . . . This is especially true when the opinion is that of a treating physician") (citation omitted); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 631-33 (9th Cir. 2007) (discussing deference owed to treating physician opinions). Even where the treating physician's opinions are contradicted,*fn2 "if the ALJ wishes to disregard the opinion[s] of the treating physician he . . . must make findings setting forth specific, legitimate reasons for doing so that are based on substantial evidence in the record." Winans v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 643, 647 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation, quotations and brackets omitted); see Rodriguez v. Bowen, 876 F.2d at 762 ("The ALJ may disregard the treating physician's opinion, but only by setting forth specific, legitimate reasons for doing so, and this decision must itself be based on substantial evidence") (citation and quotations omitted).

Section 404.1512(e) of 20 C.F.R. provides that the Administration "will seek additional evidence or clarification from your medical source when the report from your medical source contains a conflict or ambiguity that must be resolved, the report does not contain all of the necessary information, or does not appear to be based on medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." See Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d at 1288 ("If the ALJ thought he needed to know the basis of Dr. Hoeflich's opinions in order to evaluate them, he had a duty to conduct an appropriate inquiry, for example, by subpoenaing the physicians or submitting further questions to them. He could also have continued the hearing to augment the record") (citations ...


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