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Vogel v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 4, 2018

MONIQUE BARBARA VOGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Performing duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          CHARLES F. EICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied, and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.

         PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on September 11, 2017, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on October 6, 2017.

         Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on February 26, 2018. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on March 28, 2018. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; “Order, ” filed September 12, 2017.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a former waitress, asserts disability since June 6, 2011, based primarily on alleged neck pain (Administrative Record (“A.R.”) 11-30, 66, 146-50, 1009). Plaintiff's disability insurance status expired on September 30, 2015 (A.R. 988).

         Following a remand by this Court, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted another hearing and examined the record (A.R. 986-97; see A.R. 1-982, 998-1647). The ALJ found Plaintiff has severe “degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine with cervical spondylosis; bursitis of the left shoulder; degenerative joint disease; history of thyroid cancer; and hypothyroidism” (A.R. 988). The ALJ also found, however, that through September 30, 2015, Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, including Plaintiff's past relevant work as a waitress (A.R. 989, 996).

         In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ rejected the opinion of Plaintiff's treating orthopedist, Dr. Neil Halbridge (A.R. 995). Dr. Halbridge, who treated Plaintiff beginning in 2007 and continuing into 2015, consistently opined during 2012-15 that Plaintiff's severe neck problems limited Plaintiff to less than a sedentary exertional capacity (A.R. 707, 901, 905, 909, 911, 914, 921, 925, 930, 935, 939, 942, 1522, 1528, 1534, 1540, 1546, 1552, 1558, 1564, 1570, 1576, 1582, 1588, 1594, 1600, 1606, 1612, 1618, 1624, 1632).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [administrative] conclusion.

         DISCUSSION

         The opinion of a treating physician commands particular respect. “As a general rule, more weight should be given to the opinion of the treating source than to the opinion of doctors who do not treat the claimant. . . .” Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). A treating physician's conclusions “must be given substantial weight.” Embrey v. Bowen, 849 F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); see Rodriguez v. Bowen, 876 F.2d 759, 762 (9th Cir. 1989) (“the ALJ must give sufficient weight to the subjective aspects of a doctor's opinion. . . . This is especially true when the opinion is that of a treating physician”) (citation omitted); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 631-33 (9th Cir. 2007) (discussing deference owed to treating physicians' opinions). Even where the treating physician's opinion is contradicted, as here, [1] “if the ALJ wishes to disregard the opinion of the treating physician he . . . must make findings setting forth specific, legitimate reasons for doing so that are based on substantial evidence in the record.” Winans v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 643, 647 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation, quotations and brackets omitted); see Rodriguez v. Bowen, 876 F.2d at 762 (“The ALJ may disregard the treating physician's opinion, but only by setting forth specific, legitimate reasons for doing ...


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