United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
Lane Wilson United States Magistrate Judge
Jeffrey Lynn Phelps seeks judicial review of the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
denying his claim for disability insurance benefits under
Title II 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. 9). Any appeal of this decision will
be directly to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
argues (1) that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinions of
three of plaintiff's treating physicians; and (2) that
the ALJ made improper credibility findings. (Dkt. 15).
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).
argues that the ALJ erred in addressing the opinions of three
treating physicians: Dr. Anderson Mehrle, a cardiologist; Dr.
Michael Bumpus, a family practitioner; and Dr. Thomas Britt,
an emergency physician. (Dkt. 15). Plaintiff contends that
the ALJ did not assign a weight to the opinions but
implicitly gave them little weight. Id. Plaintiff
asserts that the ALJ should have given controlling weight to
all three opinions, or, alternatively, that the ALJ did not
properly consider the factors in weighing the opinions.
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. § 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 opinion).
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.
§ 416.927. 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 ...