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Eila Ramirez v. Carolyn W. Colvin

April 22, 2013

EILA RAMIREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert N. Block United States Magistrate Judge

O

ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint herein on June 19, 2012, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. In accordance with the Court's Case Management Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on March 21, 2013. Thus, this matter now is ready for decision.*fn2

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that plaintiff is raising as the grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly evaluated all of the medical opinions in the record.

2. Whether the ALJ properly determined plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC").

3. Whether the ALJ made a proper adverse credibility determination with respect to plaintiff's son.

4. Whether the ALJ made a proper adverse credibility determination with respect to plaintiff.

5. Whether the ALJ properly rejected the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician.

6. Whether the ALJ posed a proper hypothetical question to the vocational expert ("VE").

DISCUSSION

As to Disputed Issue No. 5, as discussed hereafter, the Court concurs with the Commissioner that reversal is not warranted with respect to the ALJ's alleged failure to properly consider the treating physician's opinion. As to Disputed Issue Nos. 1-4, the Court concurs with plaintiff that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate all of the medical opinions in the record, failed to properly determine plaintiff's RFC, and failed to make proper adverse credibility determinations with respect to plaintiff and plaintiff's son. As a result, it is unnecessary for the Court to reach the issue of whether the ALJ posed a proper hypothetical question to the VE (Disputed Issue No. 6), although it does not appear to the Court that plaintiff's underlying contention is well taken.*fn3

A. Reversal is not warranted based on the ALJ's alleged failure to properly consider the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician (Disputed Issue No. 5).

Disputed Issue No. 5 is directed to the ALJ's rejection of the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Jimeno, who authored two letters describing plaintiff as "totally and permanently disabled" and an RFC questionnaire imposing functional limitations effectively limiting plaintiff to semi-sedentary work. (See Jt Stip at 28-30; see also AR at 817, 819-25, 924.)

The law is well established in this Circuit that a treating physician's opinions are entitled to special weight because a treating physician is employed to cure and has a greater opportunity to know and observe the patient as an individual. See McAllister v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 599, 602 (9th Cir. 1989). "The treating physician's opinion is not, however, necessarily conclusive as to either a physical condition or the ultimate issue of disability." Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989). The weight given a treating physician's opinion depends on whether it is supported by sufficient medical data and is consistent with other evidence in the record. See 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1527(d)(2), 416.927(d)(2). If the treating physician's opinion is uncontroverted by another doctor, it may be rejected only for "clear and convincing" reasons. See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996); Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.3d 1391, 1396 (9th Cir. 1991). Where the treating physician's opinion is controverted, it may be rejected only if the ALJ makes findings setting forth specific and legitimate reasons that are based on the substantial evidence of record. See, e.g., Reddick v. ...


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