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Lewis v. Colvin

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

July 9, 2015

LESLY LYNNENE LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GAIL J. STANDISH, Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff Lesly Lynnene Lewis ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, and motions addressing disputed issues in the case (Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Complaint ("Plaintiff's Brief") and Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Complaint ("Defendant's Opposition")). The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument.

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff asserts disability since August 1, 2010, based primarily on basilar migraine headaches, speech problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, back pain, depression, memory problems, vertigo, sleep apnea, and arm weakness. (Administrative Record ("AR") 12-13, 33-41, 156, 174).

After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") applied the five-step sequential evaluation process to find Plaintiff not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(g)(1).[1] At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful employment since her alleged onset date. (AR 12). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: history of transient ischemic attack; obstructive sleep apnea; basilar/complex migraine headaches; high cholesterol; arthritis in the back; bipolar 1 disorder, mixed type of moderate degree, nonpsychotic; and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"). (AR 12). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments, either singly or in combination, do not meet or equal the requirements of any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR 13). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a range of light work.[2] (AR 14 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not capable of performing her past relevant work. (AR 21-22). At step five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the economy. (AR 22-23).

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-3).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.

IV. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ: (1) rejected the examining neurologist's opinion without stating legally sufficient reasons for doing so; (2) erred in the assessment of Plaintiff's credibility; and (3) erred in finding that Plaintiff is capable of performing other work. (Plaintiff's Brief at 4-20). As set forth below, the Court agrees with Plaintiff, in part, and remands the matter for further proceedings.

A. Examining Neurologist's Opinion

Plaintiff contends the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinion of the examining neurologist, Dr. Marshall Handleman. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly discounted Dr. Handleman's findings that Plaintiff is limited to "occasional" use of her left hand for fine and gross manipulative movements, and erred in finding that her left upper extremity impairment was not severe. (Plaintiff's Brief 4-8, 10; AR 322). Plaintiff further argues that the ALJ improperly rejected Dr. Handleman's findings that Plaintiff has moderate limitations in the ability to perform "work activities on a consistent basis without special or additional supervision, " and moderate limitations in the ability to complete "a normal work day or work week." (Plaintiff's Brief 10-11;AR 329).

An ALJ must provide clear and convincing reasons supported by substantial evidence to reject the uncontradicted opinion of an examining physician, Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1216 (9th Cir. 2005), and specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence to reject the contradicted opinion of an examining physician, Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830-31 (9th Cir. 1995). The opinion of a non-examining physician, standing alone, cannot constitute substantial evidence to justify the rejection of an examining or ...


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