Unpublished Disposition, 883 F.2d 1025 (9th Cir. 1989)

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US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 883 F.2d 1025 (9th Cir. 1989)

No. 88-15138.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Before WALLACE and SCHROEDER, Circuit Judges, and DICKRAN M. TEVRIZIAN,*  Jr., District Judge.


Torkelson appeals from the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), which affirmed the Secretary's determination that Torkelson was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Torkelson claims that the administrative law judge (ALJ) (1) improperly rejected the opinion of Dr. Thomas, who was one of her many treating physicians, and (2) failed to fully develop the record. We affirm.

We have "a very limited scope of judicial review of the Secretary's decisions granting or denying Social Security disability benefits." Hall v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 602 F.2d 1372, 1374 (9th Cir. 1979). "The Secretary's findings of fact are conclusive if supported by 'substantial evidence.' " Id., citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. at 1375 (quotation omitted). We "will set aside a denial of benefits only if the Secretary's findings are based upon legal error or are not supported by substantial evidence as a whole." Taylor v. Heckler, 765 F.2d 872, 875 (9th Cir. 1985) (emphasis and quotation omitted).

An ALJ must give specific reasons for disregarding a treating physician's opinion. Winans v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 643, 647 (9th Cir. 1988). In this case, the ALJ stated adequate reasons for discounting Dr. Thomas's opinion. The ALJ found Dr. Thomas's opinion unpersuasive because it was based on subjective symptoms of pain that went beyond those that could reasonably be expected to be produced by the objective medical findings regarding the claimant. See Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 531-32 (9th Cir. 1986); 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1529.

We also reject Torkelson's claim that the ALJ failed to develop fully and fairly the record during the administrative proceedings by not considering additional testimony or reports from Dr. Thomas. See Key v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 1545, 1551 (9th Cir. 1985) (" [w]hen a claimant appears at a hearing without counsel, the ALJ must 'scrupulously and conscientiously probe into, inquire of, and explore for all the relevant facts' "), quoting Cox v. Califano, 587 F.2d 988, 991 (9th Cir. 1978). The ALJ had all of Dr. Thomas's reports before him; they apparently postdated the period of Torkelson's insured time. The record simply does not reflect that the ALJ was less than scrupulous, conscientious or did not adequately investigate the facts.


Note: This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the Courts of this Circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3.


Honorable Dickran M. Tevrizian, Jr., United States District Judge, Central District of California, sitting by designation