United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
J. WISTRICH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
filed this action seeking reversal of the decision of
defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying
plaintiff’s application for disability insurance
benefits. The parties have filed a Joint Stipulation
(“JS”) setting forth their contentions with
respect to each disputed issue.
January 20, 2011, plaintiff filed his application for
disability insurance benefits alleging disability since
February 1, 2004 due to bipolar disorder, manic depression,
and severe back pain. [JS 2; Administrative Record
(“AR”) 92, 226]. On March 16, 2012, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a written
decision denying benefits. [AR 75-87]. Thereafter, the
Appeals Council granted plaintiff’s request for review
and remanded the case to the ALJ for further administrative
proceedings. [AR 88-91]. Following a hearing, the ALJ issued
a new decision on March 5, 2014 in which he concluded that
plaintiff was not disabled prior to his date last insured
(“DLI”). [AR 18-34]. The ALJ found that during
the relevant period, plaintiff had a severe mental impairment
consisting of bipolar disorder. [AR 23]. The ALJ determined
that plaintiff had no exertional limitations. The ALJ further
found that plaintiff had nonexertional limitations
restricting him to unskilled, low stress jobs requiring
simple instructions, and that he could not perform his past
relevant work. [AR 24-27]. Relying on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform
alternative medium, unskilled jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy, and therefore that plaintiff
was not disabled prior to expiration of his insured status.
[AR 27-29]. That decision became the Commissioner’s
final decision in this matter when the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff’s request for review. [JS 2; AR 1-6, 14-17].
Commissioner’s denial of benefits should be disturbed
only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or is
based on legal error. Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806
F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015); Thomas v. Barnhart,
278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). “Substantial
evidence” means “more than a mere scintilla, but
less than a preponderance.” Bayliss v.
Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005).
“It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The court is required to
review the record as a whole and to consider evidence
detracting from the decision as well as evidence supporting
the decision. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin, 466 F.3d
880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006); Verduzco v. Apfel, 188
F.3d 1087, 1089 (9th Cir. 1999). “Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of
which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278
F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Morgan v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th
contends that the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of his
treating psychiatrist, Steven Allen, M.D. [See JS
treating physician’s medical opinion is not binding on
the Commissioner with respect to the existence of an
impairment or the ultimate issue of disability.
Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1148 (9th Cir.
2001). However, a treating physician's opinion as to the
nature and severity of an individual's impairment is
entitled to controlling weight when that opinion is
well-supported and not inconsistent with other substantial
evidence in the record. Edlund v. Massanari, 253
F.3d 1152, 1157 (9th Cir. 2001); Holohan v.
Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1202 (9th Cir. 2001);
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2),
416.927(c)(2); Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *1-*2. Even when not entitled to
controlling weight, “treating source medical opinions
are still entitled to deference and must be weighed” in
light of (1) the length of the treatment relationship; (2)
the frequency of examination; (3) the nature and extent of
the treatment relationship; (4) the supportability of the
diagnosis; (5) consistency with other evidence in the record;
and (6) the area of specialization. Edlund, 253 F.3d
at 1157 & n.6 (quoting SSR 96-2p and citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527); Holohan, 246 F.3d at 1202.
treating source opinion is uncontroverted, the ALJ must
provide clear and convincing reasons, supported by
substantial evidence in the record, for rejecting it. If
contradicted by that of another doctor, a treating or
examining source opinion may be rejected for specific and
legitimate reasons that are based on substantial evidence in
the record. Batson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 2004);
Tonapetyan, 242 F.3d at 1148-1149; Lester v.
Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830-831 (9th Cir. 1995).
DLI for social security disability insurance purposes was
June 30, 2007. [AR 23]. Therefore, as the ALJ noted, the
relevant time period for determining plaintiff’s
eligibility for disability insurance benefits was from
February 1, 2004, plaintiff’s alleged onset date,
through June 30, 2007, his DLI. [See AR 23].
began treatment with Dr. Allen in July 2013, almost six years
after his DLI. [AR 1082]. On August 8, 2013, Dr. Allen filled
out a mental residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
assessment, in which he noted plaintiff’s
“chronic diagnoses” of bipolar disorder and
severe depression. [AR 1046]. Dr. Allen opined that plaintiff
was markedly limited in several areas of functioning,
including the ability to maintain concentration and
attention, the ability to complete a normal workday, and the
ability to get along with coworkers. [AR 1044-1045].
According to Dr. Allen, plaintiff “lack[ed] the
psychiatric stability necessary for employment.” [AR
plaintiff asked Dr. Allen to review his medical records
dating from June 1, 2007 through July 22, 2013. [See
AR 1082]. After reviewing those records, Dr. Allen drafted a
letter dated December 4, 2013 in which he opined that,
between June 1, 2007 and July 22, 2013, plaintiff’s
“bipolar diathesis and his reported adverse reactions
to  mood stabilization medications could have adversely
affected his ability to maintain full time employment.”
[AR 1082-1083]. Dr. Allen noted that plaintiff had been
hospitalized in December 2010 with symptoms of mania; he
struggled with “adverse medicinal ...