United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
FREDERICK F. MUMM, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for supplemental security income benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the October 10, 2013 Case Management Order, on June 6, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record ("AR"), filed by defendant on April 4, 2014, and the Joint Stipulation. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings.
On March 15, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). ALJ Margaret M. Craig held a hearing on January 25, 2012. On May 24, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 18-27.) Plaintiff sought review of the decision before the Social Security Administration Appeals Council and submitted additional evidence. The Council denied review on July 24, 2013. (AR 1-3.) Plaintiff commenced the instant action on October 4, 2013.
Plaintiff raises one issue in this action:
1. Whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's treating physicians' opinions and properly developed the record.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 929-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984). However, even if substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be reversed if the proper legal standard was not applied. Howard ex rel. Wolff v. Barnhart, 341 F.3d 1006, 1014-15 (9th Cir. 2003).
Whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's treating physicians' opinions and properly developed the record.
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinions of Dr. Myint (treating psychiatrist) and Dr. Small (treating physician). The ALJ relied on the opinion of a consultative examining physician, Dr. Rodriguez (examining psychiatrist), with respect to his conclusions as to plaintiff's mental capacity.
A. Legal Standard
In evaluating medical opinions, the case law and regulations distinguish among three types of physicians: (1) those who treat the claimant (treating physicians); (2) those who examine but do not treat the claimant (examining physicians); and (3) those who neither examine nor treat the claimant (non-examining physicians) . Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995), limited on other grounds, Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 523 (9th Cir. 1996); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1502, 416.927(d). As a general rule, more weight should be given to the opinion of a treating source than to the opinion of doctors who do not treat the claimant. Winans v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 643, 647 (9th Cir. 1987); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d)(2). The opinion of ...