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.
parties are familiar with the procedural facts, which are
summarized in the Joint Stipulation. [See JS 2-3].
Plaintiff filed an application for benefits on May 18, 2012
alleging disability beginning March 28, 2012. [AR 139].
Following a hearing, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) denied benefits in a January 16, 2014
written decision that constitutes the Commissioner's
final decision in this matter. [JS 2; Administrative Record
(“AR”) AR 1-6, 13-21]. The ALJ determined that
plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments:
congestive heart failure; insulin-dependent diabetes
mellitus; status post abdominal surgeries with history of
intermittent nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; right wrist pain,
secondary to osteopenia; morbid obesity; chronic anemia, COPD
and asthma, controlled by medication; and lower extremity
lymphedema. [AR 19]. The ALJ also found that plaintiff had
non-severe impairments consisting of diabetic retinopathy,
hypertension, depression and anxiety. [AR 19-20]. The ALJ
determined that plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with
the following additional limitations:
[Plaintiff] is restricted to occasionally climbing ramps,
never climbing stairs, never climbing ladders, ropes or
scaffolds, occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching and crawling. [Plaintiff] has no manipulative
limitations. She must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
heat, cold and humidity, avoid all exposure to fumes, dusts,
gases, poor ventilation and pulmonary irritants, and avoid
even moderate exposure to hazards, such as heights and
concluded that plaintiff was not disabled from March 28, 2012
through the date of her decision because plaintiff's RFC
did not preclude performance of her past relevant work as an
accounts payable clerk, legal secretary, or insurance clerk.
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. Social 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 erroneously rejected the opinion of
plaintiff's treating physician and family medicine
practitioner, Dr. Elisabeth Brown. [See JS 4-6].
general, “[t]he opinions of treating doctors should be
given more weight than the opinions of doctors who do not
treat the claimant.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 632 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Reddick v. Chater,
157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998)); see Tonapetyan v.
Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1148 (9th Cir. 2001). A treating
physician's opinion is entitled to greater weight than
those of examining or non-examining physicians because
“treating physicians are employed to cure and thus have
a greater opportunity to know and observe the patient as an
individual . . . .” Edlund v. Massanari, 253
F.3d 1152, 1157 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Smolen v.
Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1285 (9th Cir. 1996) and citing
Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-2p, 1996 WL
374188); see generally 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1502, 404.1527(c)(2), 416.902, 416.927(c)(2). When a
treating physician's medical opinion as to the nature and
severity of an individual's impairment is well-supported
and not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the
record, that opinion must be given controlling weight.
Edlund, 253 F.3d at 1157; see Orn, 495 F.3d
at 631; SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188 at 1-2.
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 ...