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Eastman v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

December 19, 2014

ROGER C. EASTMAN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


JAMES A. REDDEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roger Eastman brings this action to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and Social Security Income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 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.


Eastman filed his applications in March 2008, alleging disability since January 31, 2007, due to "diabetes, mental." Tr. 251. Born in 1956, Eastman was 51 years old on his alleged onset date. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found him not disabled. This court remanded the matter to the Commissioner on September 13, 2012. Tr. 709-52. A second hearing occurred on April 17, 2013. Tr. 575-613. In a partially favorable decision the ALJ found Plaintiff disabled beginning March 2, 2011, Plaintiff's 55th birthday, but not disabled before that date. Tr. 550-74. Eastman's request for review was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.


The ALJ found Eastman had the medically determinable severe impairments of diabetes mellitus, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the hip, learning disorder, mood disorder, cognitive disorder, and impulse control disorder. Tr. 558. The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009. Tr. 557.

The ALJ found that Eastman'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. 558.

The ALJ determined that Eastman retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a limited range of light work and is able to frequently climb ramps and stairs and kneel; can do no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; can occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl; should avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, hazards; is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled work; should have no public contact; is limited to occasional superficial contact with coworkers regarding trivial matters; is limited to low stress work, which is defined as work requiring few decisions and few changes; should have no writing or math as part of job duties; job duties should be capable of one-on-one, in person demonstration rather than written instruction. Tr. 559.

At step five, the ALJ found Eastman was unable to perform his past relevant work as a tire changer, dredge operator, core maker, crane operator, and crane chaser, but was capable of performing other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, including light janitorial worker and assembler. Tr. 17.

Eastman argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider the opinion of examining psychologist Jack Litman, Ph.D.


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. Chafer, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995). In such circumstances the ALJ should also give greater weight to the opinion of an examining physician over that of a reviewing physician. Id But, if two medical source opinions conflict, an ALJ need only give "specific and legitimate reasons" for discrediting one opinion in favor of another. Id. at 830. The ALJ may reject physician opinions that are "brief, conclusory, and inadequately supported by clinical findings." Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1216 (9th Cir. 2005). "[T]he opinions of a specialist about medical issues related to his or her area of specialization are given more weight than the opinions of a nonspecialist." Smolen v. Chafer, 80 F.3d 1273, 1285 (9ith Cir. 1996)( citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(5)).

I. Medical Evidence

Jack Litman, Ph.D., examined Plaintiff in April 2010. Tr. ...

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