United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
Lane Wilson, United States Magistrate Judge
Terrie Louise Brimer seeks judicial review of the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
denying her claim for disability insurance benefits under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, and
1382c(a)(3). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1)
& (3), the parties have consented to proceed before a
United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. 13). Any appeal of this
decision will be directly to the Tenth Circuit Court of
raises one main issue: that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) failed to properly weigh or even discuss
the opinion of treating physician David R. Hicks,
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See Grogan v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
See id. The Court's review is based on the
record, and the Court will “meticulously examine the
record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or
detract from the ALJ's findings in order to determine if
the substantiality test has been met.” Id. The
Court may neither re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Hackett v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2005). Even if
the Court might have reached a different conclusion, if
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
decision stands. See White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d
903, 908 (10th Cir. 2002).
Treating Physician/Opinion Evidence
argues that the ALJ erred by failed to properly weigh or even
discuss the opinion of treating orthopedic surgeon David R.
Hicks, M.D., instead giving great weight to opinions from the
consultative examiners and non-examining agency physician
consultants. (Dkt. 20).
a treating physician's opinion is entitled to controlling
weight when it is “well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and
is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in
[the] case record.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c)(2), 416.927(c)(2); see also Hackett v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d at 1173-74 (citing Watkins v.
Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1297, 1300-01 (10th Cir. 2003)). If
the ALJ discounts or rejects a treating physician opinion, he
is required to explain his reasoning for so doing. See
Frey v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 508, 513 (10th Cir. 1987)
(stating that an ALJ must give specific, legitimate reasons
for disregarding a treating physician's opinion);
Thomas v. Barnhart, 147 F.App'x 755, 760 (10th
Cir. 2005) (holding that an ALJ must give “adequate
reasons” for rejecting an examining physician's
opinion and adopting a non-examining physician's
analysis of a treating physician's opinion is sequential.
First, the ALJ must determine whether the opinion qualifies
for “controlling weight, ” by determining whether
it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and whether it is consistent
with the other substantial evidence in the administrative
record. Watkins, 350 F.3d at 1300. If the answer is
“no” to the first part of the inquiry, then the
analysis is complete. If the ALJ finds that the opinion is
well-supported, he must then confirm that the opinion is
consistent with other substantial evidence in the record.
Id. “[I]f the opinion is deficient in either
of these respects, then it is not entitled to controlling
even if the ALJ finds the treating physician's opinion is
not well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques or is inconsistent with the
other substantial evidence in the record, treating physician
opinions are still entitled to deference and must be
evaluated in reference to the factors enumerated in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527. Those factors are as follows:
(1) the length of the treating relationship and the frequency
of examination, (2) the nature and extent of the treatment
relationship, including the treatment provided and the kind
of examination or testing performed, (3) the degree to which
the physician's opinion is supported by relevant
evidence, (4) consistency between the opinion and the record
as a whole, (5) whether or not the physician is a specialist
in the area upon which an opinion is rendered; and (6) other
factors brought to the ALJ's attention which tend to
support or contradict the opinion.
Watkins, 350 F.3d at 1301 (citing Drapeau v.
Massanari, 255 F.3d 1211, 1213 (10th Cir. 2001)). The
ALJ must give good reasons in his decision for the weight he
ultimately assigns the opinion. Id (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(c)(2)). The reasons must be of sufficient
specificity to make clear to any subsequent reviewers the
weight the adjudicator gave to the treating physician's
opinion and the reasons for that weight. See Andersen v.
Astrue, 319 F.App'x 712, 717 (10th Cir. 2009)
the ALJ failed to analyze Dr. Hicks' opinions at all, so
there is no treating physician analysis for the Court to
review. The Commissioner attempts to fill in the gaps of the
ALJ's decision by noting that the ALJ mentioned some of
Dr. Hicks' treatment notes in his RFC discussion, and
addressed Dr. Hicks' opinions of plaintiff s functional
limitations during the ...