United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge.
Michelle Meyer (“Plaintiff”) challenges the
Social Security Commissioner's decision denying her
application for disability benefits. Two issues are presented
for decision here:
1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
properly assessed Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist's
opinion (see Joint Stipulation (“Joint
Stip.”) at 2-8, 13-15); and
2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's
credibility (id. at 2, 16-22, 26-29).
Court addresses Plaintiff's contentions below, and finds
that reversal is not warranted.
The ALJ Provided Specific and Legitimate Reasons for
Assigning Less Weight to Dr. Essaian's Opinion
contends that the ALJ improperly assessed the opinion of her
treating psychiatrist, Dr. Inessa Essaian. (Joint Stip. at
rule, if an ALJ wishes to disregard the opinion of a treating
or examining physician, “he or she must make findings
setting forth specific, legitimate reasons for doing so that
are based on substantial evidence in the record.”
Murray v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir.
1983); accord Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008).
the ALJ properly assigned “little weight” to Dr.
Essaian's opinion for three reasons.
as Plaintiff concedes, Dr. Essaian's opinion that
Plaintiff is “permanently disabled from work” and
that her “disabilities . . . prevent her from
working” are issues reserved for the Commissioner.
(See Joint Stip. at 5, 14; Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 18, 482, 522); see also Ukolov v.
Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002, 1004 (2005) (“Although a
treating physician's opinion is generally afforded the
greatest weight in disability cases, it is not binding on an
ALJ as to the existence of an impairment or the ultimate
determination of disability.”); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(d)(1), 416.927(d)(1) (statements by a medical source
that a claimant is “disabled” or “unable to
work” are “not medical opinions, . . . but are,
instead, opinions on issues reserved to the
Commissioner”); Dimasi v. Colvin, 2015 WL
5842283, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 6, 2015) (ALJ properly
accorded little weight to psychiatric opinion that claimant
was “unable to sustain employment” because that
was an issue reserved for the Commissioner).
the ALJ could reasonably infer that Plaintiff's condition
had been stable because Dr. Essaian's
treatment - meeting with Plaintiff and continuing
the same prescription - was consistent and unchanging for years.
(AR at 18-19, 76-77, 482); Warre v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 439 F.3d 1001, 1006 (9th Cir. 2006) (impairments
that can be controlled with treatment are not disabling);
Williamson v. Berryhill, 2017 WL 3701229, at *2
(C.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2017) (“Presumably, if
[claimant]'s migraines were as disabling as she claimed,
common sense dictates that she would have . . . not simply
continued to take the same medication that she had been
taking, which were not working, for years.”); Smith
v. Astrue, 2009 WL 799174, at *12 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 24,
2009) (ALJ reasonably inferred that claimant must have
experienced some improvement because she took the same
medication for pain and mental health issues for two to five
years; “otherwise, logic would suggest the initiation
of a change in dosage, prescription, or treatment”).
Dr. Essaian's opinion conflicted with medical opinions
and testimony of other doctors, including (1) psychiatric
consultative examiner Pramual Pinanong, M.D., and (2)
psychological medical expert Betty Borden, Ph.D. (AR at
18-19, 74-91, 500-06); see Batson v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1197 (9th Cir. 2004) (“[I]t
was permissible for the ALJ to give [treating physician
opinions] minimal evidentiary weight, in light of . . .
opinions and observations of other doctors.”);
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989) (reviewing court must affirm Commissioner's
decision if it is based on findings of fact that are
supported by substantial evidence in the “record as a
whole”); Kane v. Colvin, 2015 WL 5317149, at
*3 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 10, 2015) (ALJ properly rejected treating
physician's opinion in part because it contradicted state
agency physicians' less severe limitation findings).
the ALJ's assessment of Dr. Essaian's opinion does
not warrant reversal.
The ALJ Provided Clear and Convincing Reasons for
Discounting Plaintiff's ...