The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released an opinion in WIDMARK v. BARNHART, No. 04-35952, an appeal in a civil action brought by the United States. The panel consisted of James R. Browning, Dorothy W. Nelson, and Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Circuit Judges.
BROWNING, Circuit Judge:
Sterling Widmark appeals a decision of the district court affirming the Social Security Commissioner’s (”Commissioner”) denial of benefits. An Administrative Law Judge (”ALJ”) found Widmark, though severely impaired, had the residual functional capacity (”RFC”) for the full range of light work. Widmark argues that, in reaching his decision, the ALJ rejected the medical opinion of an examining physician without offering adequate reasons. Widmark also claims the ALJ erred in using the Medical-Vocational Guidelines in making his disability determination. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1291, and we hold that the ALJ improperly rejected the examining physician’s opinion regarding Widmark’s thumb. We also hold that this error made the ALJ’s use of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines in his final disability determination improper. Therefore, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion. I. Widmark applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on December 9, 1998, claiming disability with an onset date of May 1, 1997, due to back and neck pain. Both applications were denied. . . .
O’SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
I respectfully dissent from the court’s conclusion that the ALJ failed to give specific legitimate reasons based on substantial evidence to support his conclusion that the thumb abnormality Dr. Greenleaf observed did not significantly limit the range of work permitted by Widmark’s exertional limitations. Indeed, I am persuaded that substantial evidence supports denial of Widmark’s application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). “Under this standard, the Commissioner’s findings are upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.” Batson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). “[I]f evidence exists to support more than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the Commissioner’s decision.” Id. “[T]he court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Edlund, 253 F.3d at 1156. In situations of conflicting medical evidence, such as this one, the ALJ, not a reviewing court, is charged with determining credibility and resolving the conflict. Benton ex rel. Benton v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 1030, 1040 (9th Cir. 2003). We must defer to the ALJ’s decision to reject the opinion of a treating physician in favor of the conflicting opinion of an . . .