ALJ properly discounted treating physician's opinion where his own records undermined it
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

ALJ properly discounted treating physician's opinion where his own records undermined it

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

A treating physician’s opinion is entitled to controlling weight unless the ALJ provides good reasons for affording it less weight. Here, the claimant argued that the ALJ improperly discounted the opinion of his treating psychiatrist. The physician opined that the claimant met Listing 12.04 for an Affective Disorder, had serious functional limitations, and could not obtain competitive work. However, the ALJ determined that the psychiatrist’s own records undermined his opinion. The treatment notes reflected essentially normal cognition. By contrast, his disability report described an easily distracted patient with impaired memory and concentration. The court concluded that the ALJ’s discrediting of the treating psychiatrist’s opinion was supported by substantial evidence. Although the court questioned two aspects of the ALJ’s reasoning, downplaying the opinion because the treatment relationship was "infrequent" and not recognizing that the physician had consulted earlier records from other providers, it did not change the conclusion under the deferential standard-evidence review. The stark difference between the psychiatrist’s disability report and his treatment notes was sufficient evidence to support discounting the opinion. Moreover, the ALJ afforded proper weight to the agency consultants’ opinions and adequately addressed the claimant’s limitations in the hypothetical question for the vocational expert. The denial of benefits was affirmed (Andrew Pavlicek v. Commr., CA-7, No. 20-1809, April 7, 2021).

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