United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. MCCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff appeals from the denial of her application for Social Security benefits. On appeal, the Court concludes that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") failed to provide specific and legitimate reasons for discounting the medical opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician. Therefore, the Court reverses the ALJ's decision and remands to the ALJ for reconsideration of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff filed an application for social security disability insurance ("SSDI") benefits, alleging disability beginning November 1, 2002. Administrative Record ("AR") 13. The ALJ declined to reopen Plaintiff's prior concurrent applications, which were initially denied on May 6, 2004. Id . The ALJ found that Plaintiff's date last insured was September 30, 2006. AR 14. The relevant time period of disability before the ALJ was thus from May 7, 2004, through September 30, 2006. Id.
The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments during the relevant period: "musculoskeletal system by degenerative disc disease of the low back and mental disorders by depression and alcohol abuse." AR 16. The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the full range of light work. AR 18. When formulating this RFC, the ALJ assigned "less weight" to the opinion of Dr. Derrick Butler, Plaintiff's treating physician. AR 20. The ALJ then concluded, based upon the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), that Plaintiff's RFC would allow her to perform her past relevant work as an office manager, either as actually performed or as generally performed in the regional and national economy. AR 21.
The parties dispute whether the ALJ properly discounted Dr. Butler's medical opinion. See Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 4-13.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue , 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter , 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court "must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1996). If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).