Examining Psychologist’s Out of Date and Internally Inconsistent Opinions Can Be Given Less Weight than Non-Examining Psychologist’s Opinions

A man applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. The administrative law judge (ALJ) denied his claim, which the district court affirmed. The man appealed arguing that the ALJ improperly rejected the views of the examining psychologists while crediting the views of the non-examining doctors when assessing his disability.


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order upholding the denial of social security benefits. The court held that although an examining physician's opinion is given more weight, those of non-examining physicians may serve as substantial evidence to reject an examining physician's opinion when they are supported by other evidence in the record and are consistent with it.


The ALJ permissibly did not assign substantial weight to a psychologist’s evaluation that occurred prior to the period for which the claimant requested benefits which found that the claimant had significant psychological problems but noted that these problems were likely to improve with medication and then noted that the symptoms indeed improved with psychotropic medication. The ALJ permissibly rejected another examining physician’s opinion because the applicant’s performance on a mental status examination contradicted the doctor’s paranoia and agoraphobia diagnoses.


See: Israel v. Astrue, 2012 WL 4845578 (C.A.9 (Wash.), October 12, 2012) (not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter).