United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK United States Magistrate Judge.
Guadalupe Flores Patino (“Plaintiff”) appeals
from the Social Security Commissioner's final decision
denying her applications for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). For the reasons
discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed
and this matter is remanded for further proceedings.
was born in 1967. Administrative Record (“AR”)
311. On April 10, 2012, she filed applications for DIB and
SSI. AR 117-18, 149, 311-25. After her applications were
denied, she requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). AR 189-90. A hearing was held on
February 7, 2014, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, testified through an interpreter. AR 48-76. A
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified.
Id. On February 24, 2014, an ALJ issued a written
decision denying Plaintiff's claims for benefits. AR
149-62. Plaintiff requested review, AR 290, and on July 30,
2015, the Appeals Council granted review and remanded for
resolution of several listed issues, AR 168-74.
second hearing was held before a different ALJ on October 27,
2015. AR 31-47. Plaintiff, still represented by counsel,
again testified through an interpreter, and a different VE
testified. Id. In a written decision issued November
30, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits.
AR 15-24. After incorporating the summary of evidence set
forth in the February 2014 decision, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “status
post L4-5, L5-S1 fusion in May 2013, with radiculopathy;
multi-level degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine;
chronic pain syndrome; and depressive disorder NOS with
anxiety.” AR 18. The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform “light work” with “the capacity to
lift and carry 15 pounds frequently and 20 pounds
occasionally; no limitations in sitting, standing, or
walking; occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; no more than frequent reaching,
handling, and fingering; and performing no greater than
simple routine tasks.” AR 21. Based on the VE's
testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform her
past relevant work as a small-products assembler. AR 23.
requested review of the ALJ's decision. AR 85. On March
3, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-8. This
argues that the ALJ erred in discounting the opinion of her
treating psychologist, Gayle K. Windman,  and in omitting
from her RFC assessment the portion of orthopedic surgeon
Alan Moelleken's opinion limiting her to only occasional
twisting. Joint Stipulation (“JS”) at 4.
types of physicians may offer opinions in Social Security
cases: those who treated the plaintiff, those who examined
but did not treat the plaintiff, and those who did neither.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c),
416.927(c); Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821,
830 (9th Cir. 1995) (as amended Apr. 9, 1996). A treating
physician's opinion is generally entitled to more weight
than an examining physician's opinion, which is generally
entitled to more weight than a nonexamining physician's.
Lester, 81 F.3d at 830. 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.;
see also Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1012 (9th
Cir. 2014). 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). The weight
accorded to 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. §§ 404.1527(c), 416.927(c).
Dr. Windman's Opinion
contends that the ALJ failed to give specific and legitimate
reasons for discounting the controverted opinion of her
treating psychologist, Dr. Windman. JS at 4-12. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court agrees.
Plaintiff's Mental-Health Treatment Through Dr.
Curits's Office and Dr. Windman's Opinion
March 2, 2011, William W. Kaiser, Ph.D., performed an initial
evaluation and report as part of Plaintiff's
workers'-compensation case for a work-related back
injury. AR 478-93. Dr. Kaiser noted that Plaintiff was
appropriately dressed and groomed. AR 482. She had
“features of distraction caused by her pain when she
related that the pain radiates into her legs”; her
communication was “pressured” when talking about
her symptoms; and she appeared disturbed, distressed, tense,
and frustrated when talking about her physical pain and
limitations. AR 482. She demonstrated “diminished
cognitive functioning” and was “noted to be
distracted and defective in concentration, attention, and
short-term memory.” Id. Plaintiff did not have
hallucinations, paranoia, or delusions. Id. Her
insight and judgment were unimpaired. Id.
Psychological testing showed mild-to-moderate depression,
moderate anxiety, and excessive depression. AR 482-84. Dr.
Kaiser diagnosed ...