United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
SABRINA M. PARRA, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
ORDER RE CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT.
NOS. 18, 22
VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI United States Magistrate Judge
Sabrina M. Parra appeals a final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying
her application for disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq. The parties have filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. Dkt. Nos. 18, 22.
Parra contends that the Commissioner's denial of benefits
reflects multiple errors: (1) improper weighting of medical
opinions or statements from Ms. Parra's treating,
examining, and non-examining physicians concerning her
ability to reach; (2) improper finding that Ms. Parra's
testimony was not entirely credible or consistent with the
record; and (3) incorrect assessment of the testimony of the
matter was submitted without oral argument. Upon
consideration of the moving and responding papers and the
relevant evidence of record, for the reasons set forth below,
the Court denies Ms. Parra's motion for summary judgment
and grants the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary
Parra seeks disability benefits beginning December 10, 2013.
AR 17-18. She applied for benefits on January 22, 2015. AR
185-88. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held
a hearing and issued an unfavorable decision on September 29,
2017. AR 15-23. The ALJ found that Ms. Parra had the
following severe impairments: obesity, rotator cuff partial
tear, and lumbar degenerative disc disease. AR 18. The ALJ
concluded that Ms. Parra did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one
of the listed impairments. Id. The ALJ then
determined that Ms. Parra's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) limited her to light work, except that
she could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, that she could sit, stand, and walk for 6 hours
each, that she could push and pull as much as she could lift
and carry, and that she could frequently reach overhead and
in other directions with her right arm. AR 18-20. The ALJ
concluded that Ms. Parra was not disabled because she was
capable of performing jobs that exist in the national
economy, such as a copy machine operator,
housekeeping/cleaner, and cafeteria attendant. AR 22-23.
Appeals Council denied Ms. Parra's request for review of
the ALJ's decision. AR 1- 3. Ms. Parra filed this action
on October 10, 2018. Dkt. No. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has the authority to
review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The
Commissioner's decision will be disturbed only if it is
not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based upon
the application of improper legal standards. Morgan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th
Cir. 1999); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th
Cir. 1995). In this context, the term “substantial
evidence” means “more than a mere scintilla but
less than a preponderance-it is such relevant evidence that a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the
conclusion.” Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; see
also Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir.
1992). When determining whether substantial evidence exists
to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court
examines the administrative record as a whole, considering
adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966
F.2d at 1257; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989). Where evidence exists to support more than
one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the
decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at
523; Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.
Evaluation of Medical Source Opinions
Parra contends that the ALJ erred in discounting or rejecting
Dr. Eduardo Lin's opinion as well as the portions of the
opinions of Drs. Farah Rana, F. Greene, and G. Lee concerning
Ms. Parra's ability to reach.
Treating physician Eduardo Lin, M.D.
found Dr. Eduardo Lin's opinion “overly restrictive
and inconsistent with the evidence of record as a
whole.” AR 21. Ms. Parra argues that the ALJ erred in
giving little weight to Dr. Lin's opinion on Ms.
Parra's restrictions in his medical source statement.
Dkt. No. 18 at 8-10.
provided treatment to Ms. Parra from February 20, 2014 to
September 24, 2014 in connection with her claim for
workers' compensation. AR 21, 301-34. In September 2014,
Dr. Lin provided a medical source statement diagnosing Ms.
Parra with a lumbosacral disc injury and a right shoulder
rotator cuff injury that caused her pain in her shoulder,
back, and leg, which was temporarily relieved by Vicodin and
Lyrica medication. AR 425-28. He noted that she experienced
muscle spasms and weakness and cited the results of MRIs
taken of her shoulder and back. AR 425. Dr. Lin also noted
that Ms. Parra experienced depression, decreased energy, and
sleep disturbance, and that her pain and other symptoms were
constantly severe enough to interfere with attention and
concentration needed to perform even simple work tasks. AR
respect to Ms. Parra's functional limitations, Dr. Lin
opined that she could only sit for an hour at a time and
stand for 15 minutes at a time, and that in total during an
eight-hour workday, she could only sit, stand, or walk for
two hours each. Id. Dr. Lin stated that Ms. Parra
needed to walk every 20 minutes for 10-15 minutes, and that
she needed a job that permitted shifting from sitting,
standing, or walking at will due to her pain, muscle
weakness, and chronic fatigue. AR 426-27. Dr. Lin also stated
that Ms. Parra needed to take unscheduled breaks to rest on
average for 60 minutes before she was able to return to work.
AR 427. Additionally, Dr. Lin opined that Ms. Parra could
never look down and could only rarely turn her head right or
left, look up, or hold her head in a static position.
Id. With respect to her postural limitations, Dr.
Lin opined that Ms. Parra could never twist, stoop, crouch,
squat, or climb ladders or stairs. Id. Finally, Dr.
Lin stated that Ms. Parra was only capable of using her right
hand to grasp, turn, or twist objects, her right fingers for
fine manipulations, and her right arm for reaching 10% of the
time each. AR 428.
treating physician's opinion is entitled to
“controlling weight” if it “is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
the other substantial evidence” in the record. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) (2016). “However, ‘[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.'”
Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d
1219, 1228 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 957 (9th Cir. 2002)).
ALJ gives a treating physician's opinion less than
controlling weight, the ALJ must do two things. First, the
ALJ must consider other factors, including the length of the
treatment relationship and the frequency of examination, the
nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
supportability, consistency with the record, and
specialization of the physician. Trevizo v.
Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 675 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)-(6)). Consideration must also be
given to other factors, whether raised by the claimant or by
others, or if known to the ALJ, including the amount of
relevant evidence supporting the opinion and the quality of
the explanation provided; the degree of understanding a
physician has of the Commissioner's disability programs
and their evidentiary requirements; and the degree of his or
her familiarity with other information in the case record. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(6) (2016); Orn v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 625, 631 (9th Cir. 2007). The failure to consider
these factors, by itself, constitutes reversible error.
Trevizo, 871 F.3d at 676.
the ALJ must provide reasons for rejecting or discounting the
treating physician's opinion. The legal standard that
applies to the ALJ's proffered reasons depends on whether
or not the treating physician's opinion is contradicted
by another physician. When a treating physician's opinion
is not contradicted by another physician, the ALJ must
provide “clear and convincing” reasons for
rejecting or discounting the opinion, supported by
substantial evidence. Id. at 675. When a treating
physician's opinion is contradicted by another physician,
an ALJ must provide “specific and legitimate
reasons” for rejecting or discounting the treating
physician's opinion, supported by substantial evidence.
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.” Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989) (quotations and
respect to the ALJ's first responsibility-consideration
of other factors-the ALJ did not consider all the factors he
was required to consider under 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2)-(6). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)
(“Unless we give a treating source's medical
opinion controlling weight under paragraph (c)(2) of this
section, we consider all of the following factors in
deciding the weight we give to any medical opinion.”)
(emphasis added); see also Ghanim v. Colvin, 763
F.3d 1154, 1161 (9th Cir. 2014) (“The ALJ is required
to consider the factors set out in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2)-(6) in determining how much weight to afford
the treating physician's medical opinion.”).
Although the ALJ noted that Dr. Lin was Ms. Parra's
workers' compensation doctor and that Dr. Lin was not a
psychologist, he did not otherwise discuss the length or
extent of the treatment relationship, the frequency of
examination, or Dr. Lin's specialization. AR 21. As a
result, it is unclear to what extent, if any, ...