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TIPS ON WINNING YOUR NEVADA MENTAL HEALTH CASE

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NEVADA CASE THAT SHOWS TREATING PHYSICIAN’S OPINION DUE GREAT WEIGHT

The Nevada case, Ryan v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 528 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir., 2008), is important for individuals who have a mental health disability.  In the Ryan case, the ALJ disregarded the medical opinion of claimant’s treating mental health doctors. Ryan’s doctor found she had mental health issues that would impact her at work. For example, the doctor found she had panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Her doctor also found she could not work due to these problems and that her condition was getting worse.

The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in the case, did not give full weight to the opinions of two examining psychologists. The ALJ said their opinions were too heavily based on Ryan’s “subjective complaints.” The ALJ also said the opinions were inconsistent with the records of Ryan’s treating physician, a family practitioner. The 9th Circuit found there was no inconsistency. The records of Ryan’s treating physician, if anything, supported the examining psychologist’s assessment that Ryan was incapable of maintaining a regular work schedule.

NEVADA ALJ MAY REJECT TREATING PHYSICIAN REPORT FOR CLEAR AND CONVINCING REASONS

An ALJ may reject an examining physician’s opinion if it is contradicted by clinical evidence. Bayliss, 427 F.3d at 1216. But an ALJ does not provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting an examining physician’s opinion by questioning the credibility of the patient’s complaints where the doctor does not discredit those complaints and supports his ultimate opinion with his own observations. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir.2001) (“In sum, the ALJ appears to have relied on her doubt’s about [the claimant’s] overall credibility to reject the entirety of [the examining psychologist’s] report, including portions that [the psychologist] deemed to be reliable.”).

There is nothing in the record to suggest that claimant’s physician, Dr. Randhawa, did not believe Ryan’s description of her symptoms. Nor was there anything in the record which showed Dr. Randhawa relied on those descriptions more heavily than his own clinical observations in reaching the conclusion that Ryan was incapable of maintaining a regular work schedule. Regennitter v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 166 F.3d 1294, 1300 (9th Cir.1999) (substantial evidence did not support ALJ’s finding that examining psychologists took claimant’s “statements at face value” where psychologists’ reports did not contain “any indication that [the claimant] was malingering or deceptive”). Ryan v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 528 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir., 2008).

TREATING PHYSICIAN REPORT MUST BE READ IN CONTEXT

The Court states that the treating physician’s statements must be read in context of the overall diagnostic picture he draws. That a person who suffers from severe panic attacks, anxiety, and depression makes some improvement does not mean that the person’s impairments no longer seriously affect her ability to function in a workplace. Many ALJ’s pick and choose among the treating physician’s opinions, rejecting some credible evidence and accepting the evidence that supports their decision. This is not right. An ALJ should weigh the medical opinions in context with the other medical evidence. Additionally, the Nevada ALJ should compare the doctor’s opinion against the progressive notes. This will show their credibility.

IN NEVADA CASE THE MOST RECENT MEDICAL REPORT IS THE MOST PROBATIVE

For these reasons, the Court found the ALJ also erred by discrediting the most recent mental health assessment by Dr. Crisp, who diagnosed Ryan with major depression and agoraphobia. This diagnosis is not at odds with other treating records that characterize Ryan as suffering from chronic depression and anxiety in the visit closest in time to Dr. Crisp’s diagnosis. Regennitter, 166 F.3d at 1299; see also cf. Young v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 963, 968 (9th Cir.1986) (“Where a claimant’s condition is progressively deteriorating, the most recent medical report is the most probative.”). And like Dr. Randhawa, Dr. Crisp’s diagnosis also relied on his clinical observations of Ryan.

Most importantly, the 9th Circuit held that the ALJ’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence, and because the record confirms that, if Dr. Randhawa’s assessment were accepted, Ryan could not make an adjustment to perform any other work, the Court reversed and remanded the case for an immediate award of benefits. Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1231-32 (9th Cir.1987). Make sure your treating doctor is willing to write a letter to the SSA about your mental health disability. Your treating medical records are the most important weapon in your fight for benefits. We know how to argue a mental health case for you in front of your Nevada judge. If you have a mental health case, contact Cannon Disability Law today. We can help you win benefits.

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