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Ozeki v. Colvin

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

March 18, 2015

TSUTOMU OZEKI, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VICTOR B. KENTON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court for review of the Decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered Dr. Kim's Treating Opinion.

(JS at 4.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.

I

THE ALJ DID NOT IMPERMISSIBLY REJECT THE OPINION OF TREATING PHYSICIAN DR. KIM

Treating physician Scott Kim, M.D., who works through AltaMed, completed a largely "check the box" form on October 15, 2013, in which Dr. Kim rendered various assessments concerning exertional and non-exertional limitations. (AR 839-843.)

Following the hearing before the ALJ on November 6, 2013 (AR 44-94), at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel, and testified, and testimony was also taken from a Vocational Expert ("VE"), and Medical Expert ("ME"), an unfavorable Decision ensued. (AR 21-31.)

Plaintiff disputes the ALJ's decision to outright reject Dr. Kim's assessment, as articulated in one paragraph of the Decision at AR 29.

Plaintiff generally contends that the ALJ's decision lacks the support of substantial evidence; and specifically, that the reasons for rejecting that opinion as articulated in the Decision do not pass muster either under controlling Regulations or Ninth Circuit case decisions which provide great specificity with regard to evaluation of the treating physician's opinion. The law is well known. The treating physician's opinion is typically entitled to greater weight than opinions of examining or non-examining physicians, although in order to reject a treating physician's opinion which is contradicted by the opinion of another examining physician, an ALJ must articulate "specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence in the record for doing so." See Tonapetyan v. Halter , 242 F.3d 1144, 1148 (9th Cir. 2001).

The Court's role in evaluating whether the above-stated standards have been met must, first, be limited by what the ALJ in fact articulated in the Decision, and cannot be evaluated pursuant to a "post hoc" standard. Therefore, the Court will examine the stated reasons. These may be summarized as follows:

1. It is not possible to determine who completed the report or whether the individual was a medical doctor, because the printed ...

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