United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. MCCORMICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
G. (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the Social Security
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). The Commissioner's decision is
reversed and this case is remanded for an award of benefits.
2011, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB
alleging disability beginning on September 16, 2006.
See Dkt. 17, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 144-45. After her application was denied
at the initial and reconsideration levels, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). See AR 72, 82, 91-92. In
October 2013, after a hearing before an ALJ, Plaintiff
received an unfavorable decision. See AR 25-39. On
June 17, 2016, this Court remanded for further proceedings
because the ALJ failed to consider whether Plaintiff's
carpal tunnel syndrome was a severe impairment. See
August 23, 2017, a second ALJ held a hearing at which
Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational
expert testified. See AR 823-45. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on September 21, 2017. See AR
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine
headaches, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity,
degenerative joint disease of the knees bilaterally, history
of right wrist fracture, history of fracture of the cuboid
bone, bilateral shoulder impingement, degenerative joint
disease of the carpus, mildly displaced fracture of the
distal radium, osteoarthritis of the first meta joint,
degenerative disc disease, and neuropathy. See id.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of light
work. See AR 810. Based on the evidence of record,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work as a data systems analyst and contract
clerk/consultant technician through her date last insured
(“DLI”) of December 31, 2011. See AR
816. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled at any time between the alleged onset date and the
DLI. See id.
November 21, 2017, the ALJ's decision on remand became
the final decision of the Commissioner. See Dkt. 23,
Joint Stipulation (“JS”) at 3; 20 C.F.R. §
404.984 (explaining that “when a case is remanded by a
Federal court for further consideration, the decision of the
administrative law judge will become the final decision of
the Commissioner . . . unless the Appeals Council assumes
jurisdiction of the case” within 60 days after the date
of the ALJ's decision). This action followed.
See Dkt. 1.
parties dispute whether the ALJ properly evaluated the
opinion of treating neurologist Dr. Jack Florin. See
JS at 5.
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). 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.
See Ghanim v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154, 1160 (9th Cir.
treating or examining physician's opinion is
uncontroverted by another doctor, it may be rejected only for
“clear and convincing reasons.” Carmickle v.
Comm'r, SSA, 533 F.3d 1155, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). Where such an opinion is contradicted,
the ALJ may reject it for “specific and legitimate
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Id The ALJ can meet this burden by
“setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the
facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his
interpretation thereof, and making findings.”
Cotton v. Bowen, 799 F.2d 1403, 1408 (9th Cir.
1986). 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 factors. See 20 C.F.R. §
Medical Opinions and ALJ Reasoning
October 1999 to May 2017, Dr. Florin treated Plaintiff for
chronic migraine headaches and cervical dystonia.
See AR 410-38, 1044-46, 1070. The record contains
several opinions from Dr. Florin. Of most importance here,
Dr. Florin completed an RFC questionnaire concerning
Plaintiffs headaches on January 17, 2012, less than a month
after Plaintiffs DLI. See AR 410-14. Dr. Florin
diagnosed Plaintiff with chronic migraine and indicated that
Plaintiff had 20 headache days per month. See AR
410. Plaintiffs headache symptoms included throbbing and
constant pain at severity level 10 of 10, vertigo, nausea and
vomiting, malaise, photosensitivity, visual disturbances,
mood changes, mental confusion, inability to concentrate, and
tenderness. See AR 410-11. Dr. Florin indicated that
Frovatriptan reduced Plaintiffs migraine pain to severity
level 7 of 10, and that cold packs and lying in a dark room
also improved symptoms. See AR 411. Dr. Florin
opined that Plaintiffs headaches precluded her from
performing basic work activities, that Plaintiff was unable
to work ...