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Petty v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

May 7, 2014

HEATHER P. PETTY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

Page 771

For Heather P. Petty, Plaintiff: Richard F. McGinty, LEAD ATTORNEY, McGinty & Belcher, PC, Salem, OR.

For Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant: Adrian L. Brown, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Portland, OR; Lisa Goldoftas, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Seattle, WA.

Page 772

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES A. REDDEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Heather Petty brings this action to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (" Commissioner" ) denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and this matter is remanded for the calculation and payment of benefits.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her application on January 11, 2010, alleging disability since January 1, 1983, due to " petit mal epilepsy daily from a few sec[onds] to 4 min[utes], depression." Tr. 60. Plaintiff was 27 years old at the time of application. She completed the 9th grade. Tr. 14, 30. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, A hearing was held on November 29, 2011. Tr. 26-59. The Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) found her not disabled on January 5, 2012. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

Page 773

ALJ's DECISION

The ALJ found Plaintiff had the medically determinable severe impairments of seizure disorder, obesity, anxiety NOS, depression NOS, history of methamphetamine abuse, and borderline intellectual functioning. Tr. 12.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Tr. 12-13.

The ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but she was limited to simple, routine, entry level positions requiring no work around heights, heavy machinery, or similar workplace hazards.

At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had no past relevant work, but that there were jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform such as assembly worker and janitorial worker. Tr. 19-20.

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by improperly weighing medical opinions.

DISCUSSION

Disability opinions are reserved for the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1527(e)(1); 416.927(e)(1). If no conflict arises between medical source opinions, the ALJ generally must accord greater weight to the opinion of a treating physician than that of an examining physician. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995), More weight is given to the opinion of a treating physician because the person has a greater opportunity to know and observe the patient as an individual. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 632 (9th Cir. 2007). In such circumstances the ALJ should also give greater weight to the opinion of an examining physician over that of a reviewing physician. Id. If a treating or examining physician's opinion is not contradicted by another physician, the ALJ may only reject it for clear and convincing reasons. Id. (Treating physician); Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (examining physician). Even if one physician is contradicted by another physician, the ALJ may not reject the opinion without providing specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence in the record. Orn, 495 F.3d at 632; Widmark, 454 F.3d at 1066. The opinion of an nonexamining physician, by itself, is ...


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