United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL McSHANE, District Judge.
This action is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. This Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
On July 19, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The Commissioner initially denied these claims and plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration. On April 17, 2012, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing. The ALJ later found the plaintiff not disabled. Plaintiff appeals to this court assigning error by the ALJ for the following reasons:
1) Whether the ALJ provided sufficient reasons for discounting the opinion of treating physician Dr. O'Sullivan;
2) Whether the ALJ provided sufficient reasons to discount plaintiff's subjective complaints;
3) Whether the ALJ properly determined the plaintiff's impairments, considered their limiting effects, and evaluated the medical evidence; and
4) Whether the ALJ's hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (VE) accurately reflected the plaintiff's condition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The district court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if based upon proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record. Batson v. Comm'r for Soc. Sec. Admin, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, i.e., a tiny trace or spark of a specified quality or feeling, but less than a preponderance. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 217 (1938); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971). Substantial evidence "means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. The reviewing court shall weigh both evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion. Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1989). The reviewing court shall not simply substitute its judgment for that of the commissioner. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1196. Thus, even if evidence is susceptible to multiple rational interpretations, the Commissioner's conclusion must be upheld. Id. at 1193.
I. The ALJ provided sufficient reasons to discount the opinion of Dr. O'Sullivan
The weight accorded to a medical opinion is based upon an interplay of various factors. 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1527 and 416.927. In general, the opinion of a treating physician is entitled to more weight than an examining physician, and an examining physician is entitled to more weight than a non-examining physician. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995). When one medical opinion contradicts another medical opinion, "the ALJ is charged with determining credibility and resolving the conflict." Benton ex rel. Benton v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 1030, 1040 (9th Cir. 2003). The ALJ may reject a contradicted treating or examining physician's opinion only by providing "specific and legitimate reasons" supported by substantial evidence within the record. Lester, 81 F.3d at 830. While the opinion of a non-examining physician is not substantial evidence by itself, it may be when supplemented with more, i.e. independent evidence. Id. at 831; Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1149 (9th Cir. 2001). "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.'" Morgan v. Commissioner of the Soc. Sec. Assoc., 169 F.3d 595, 600-01 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989)).
The ALJ provided three reasons to reject Dr. O'Sullivan's opinion: 1) Dr. O'Sullivan's ultimate opinion that plaintiff is disabled is one that is reserved for the Commissioner; 2) Dr. O'Sullivan prescribed only conservative treatment; and 3) Dr. O'Sullivan's opinion is not supported by the evidence. ...