Treating physician’s opinion improperly discounted where ALJ failed to show she reviewed any treating records
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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Treating physician’s opinion improperly discounted where ALJ failed to show she reviewed any treating records

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

If a medical opinion is not entitled to controlling weight, then an ALJ must consider specific factors as set forth at 20 C.F.R. §404.1527(c) to determine the weight the opinion should be afforded. Here, the court concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s decision not to give controlling weight to the medical opinion of the claimant’s primary care physician. A reasonable mind could conclude that the physician’s opinion conflicted with other evidence in the record. However, the court reasoned that it did not follow that the ALJ could assign whatever weight to that opinion that she deemed fit. Rather, the ALJ was required to consider each of the factors outlined in the agency’s regulations before discounting the opinion. Yet, the ALJ’s explanation for giving the opinion "little to no weight" touched on only one of the pertinent factors. The ALJ mentioned that the claimant had seen the physician for five years as her family care doctor. However, the ALJ failed to explain whether she considered either the length or nature of the treating relationship before discounting the opinion. Moreover, the ALJ failed to even acknowledge three of the §404.1527(c) factors in her analysis. Although the ALJ was not required to set forth a factor-by-factor analysis in order to discount the opinion, she had to make it apparent that she meaningfully considered each of the regulatory factors before assigning weight to the opinion. Furthermore, the court ruled that the error required remand. The ALJ’s brief dismissal of the physician’s opinion did not demonstrate to the court that she reviewed any of the treating records. Thus, the decision of the district court was vacated and the case was remanded for further administrative proceedings (Kimberly Triplett v. Commr., CA-4 (Unpub. Op.), No. 19-2415. June 23, 2021).

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