United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK United States Magistrate Judge.
Diana L. Dunlap (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the
final decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denying her applications for Social
Security disability benefits. Because the ALJ’s
decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record,
the Commissioner’s decision is affirmed and the matter
is dismissed with prejudice.
filed an application for Social Security disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) on October 13, 2011, alleging disability
beginning June 6, 2011 in her DIB application and June 11,
2007 in her SSI application. Administrative Record
(“AR”) 264-77. She later amended her alleged
onset date to June 3, 2012. AR 125. After Plaintiff’s
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration,
she requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR 239-40. On April
14, 2014, a hearing was held on Plaintiff’s claim for
benefits. AR 147-68. On May 9, 2014, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision. AR 122-40. In reaching this decision,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
hypothyroidism/Grave’s disease; asthma; degenerative
changes of the cervical spine; back pain; and obesity. AR
127. The ALJ determined that despite her impairments,
Plaintiff had the RFC to perform medium work with some
additional limitations. AR 131. Relying on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform
her past relevant work as a cashier and therefore was not
disabled. AR 135. After the Appeals Council denied further
review, this action followed. AR 1-2.
parties dispute whether the ALJ properly considered the
examining physician’s opinion. See Joint
Stipulation (“JS”) at 3-4.
THE ALJ PROPERLY WEIGHED THE EXAMINING PHYSICIAN’S
contends that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of an
examining physician, Dr. Michael Singleton. In particular,
Plaintiff complains that the ALJ erred when he assigned only
“some weight” to the physician’s opinion on
the basis that the objective medical evidence did not support
the manipulative limitations opined by Dr. Singleton.
See JS at 7-9.
evaluating Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ reviewed the
opinions of Plaintiff’s treating, consulting, and
reviewing doctors, and assigned weight to their medical
opinions. The ALJ articulated the following rationale for
giving only some weight to Dr. Singleton’s findings:
The undersigned assigns some weight to the internal medicine
consultative examiner’s medical opinion opined by Dr.
Michael Singleton. Dr. Singleton examined the claimant on
January 14, 2012. The claimant’s chief complaints
included hypothyroidism; bradycardia; and, hypertension. Dr.
Singleton performed a physical examination of the claimant
and noted the claimant was able to walk to the examination
room without any assistance and she was able to take off her
shoes and put them back on. The claimant’s physical
examination was within grossly normal limitations. However,
Dr. Singleton noted positive Tinel’s sign involving her
wrists. Dr. Singleton opined the general limitations that
were opined by the State Agency physicians noted above.
However, Dr. Singleton opined that the claimant was limited
to occasional reaching, handling, fingering and feeling
(Exhibit 3F [AR 395-400]). The undersigned only assigns some
weight to this one time examining medical opinion has [sic]
the objective medical evidence does not support the
manipulative limitations opined by Dr. Singleton. Thus, the
undersigned only assigns some weight to the examining medical
types of physicians may offer opinions in Social Security
cases: those who directly treated the plaintiff, those who
examined but did not treat the plaintiff, and those who did
not treat or examine the plaintiff. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(c), 416.927(c); Lester v.
Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995) (as amended). A
treating physician’s opinion is generally entitled to
more weight than that of an examining physician, which is
generally entitled to more weight than that of a
non-examining physician. Lester, 81 F.3d at 830.
Thus, the ALJ must give specific and legitimate reasons for
rejecting a treating physician’s opinion in favor of a
non-treating physician’s contradictory opinion or an
examining physician’s opinion in favor of a
non-examining physician’s opinion. Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 632 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir.
1998)); Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31 (citing Murray
v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir. 1983)). When a
treating or examining physician’s opinion is
uncontroverted by another doctor, it may be rejected only for
“clear and convincing” reasons. See Carmickle
v. Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1164
(9th Cir. 2008) (citing Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31).
Where such an opinion is contradicted, the ALJ must provide
only “specific and legitimate reasons” for
discounting it. Id. Moreover, “[t]he ALJ need
not accept the opinion of any physician, including a treating
physician, if that opinion is brief, conclusory, and
inadequately supported by clinical findings.”
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 957 (9th Cir.
2002); accord Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144,
1149 (9th Cir. 2001). Further, the weight given a
physician’s opinion depends on whether it is consistent
with the record and accompanied by adequate explanation, the
nature and extent of the treatment relationship, and the
doctor’s specialty, among other things. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(c)(3)-(6), 416.927(d)(2)(i)-(ii).
the record shows that Dr. Singleton’s opinion about
manipulative limitations was contradicted by other doctors.
Both non-examining state agency physicians found no
manipulative limitations. See AR 178, 208. Thus, the
Court must determine whether the ALJ gave specific and
legitimate reasons for discounting Dr. Singleton’s
findings regarding Plaintiff’s manipulative
Singleton cited no laboratory tests or clinical findings in
support of his opinion that Plaintiff was limited in her
handling, fingering, or otherwise. See Batson v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195
(9th Cir. 2004) (holding that ALJ need not accept opinion of
treating physician if it is inadequately supported by
clinical findings). To the contrary, the record contains
several laboratory findings indicating that Plaintiff has
normal sensory, motor, coordination, and fine motor
abilities. AR 104, 458, 464. Although Dr. Singleton noted a