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Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

December 30, 2014

DEBORAH CARMEN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Deborah Carmen Williams ("Plaintiff") appeals from the final decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying her application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The Court concludes that the ALJ erred by discounting the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician without providing specific and legitimate reasons. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her application for benefits on August 17, 2010, alleging disability beginning June 30, 2009. Administrative Record ("AR") 26. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of right carpal tunnel syndrome and complaints of neck and back pain. AR 28. Notwithstanding these severe impairments, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of light work. AR 29. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled because there was work available in the national economy in significant numbers that she could perform despite her impairments. AR 37.

II.

ISSUES PRESENTED

The parties dispute whether the ALJ erred in: (1) evaluating and weighing the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; and (2) assessing Plaintiff's credibility.[1] See Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 4.

III.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in failing to give controlling weight to the opinion of her treating orthopedist, Dr. Rajiv Puri. JS at 4-12. Plaintiff was injured on the job in May 2007 while working as a truck driver. AR 367. Plaintiff began treatment with Dr. Puri in March 2008 due to back and right shoulder pain caused by the work injury. AR 373-440.[2] On March 9, 2009, Dr. Puri completed a work injury status report. AR 221-22. Dr. Puri opined that Plaintiff could not lift over ten pounds with her right arm and could not do any overhead reaching or activities with her right arm. Id.

The ALJ rejected Dr. Puri's opinion as follows:

The undersigned gives very limited weight to Dr. Puri's March 2009 opinion. Firstly, Dr. Puri did not have a longitudinal treatment record with the claimant and he apparently relied on the claimant's subjective complaints and history in offering his opinion. Secondly, there is no evidence that Dr. Puri intended his limitations to be permanent or to last more than twelve months. Thirdly, the claimant did not follow-up with Dr. Puri as recommended and did not follow through with Dr. Puri's referral for physical therapy. Finally, ...

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