No medical degree, no respect: Ninth Circuit upholds ALJ’s rejection of nurse practitioner’s opinion that claimant’s fibromyalgia is disabling.

Britton v. Colvin, No. 13-35626, 2015 DJDAR 6021 (9th Cir. June 2, 2015).

In this Social Security disability case, the applicant asserted that she was unable to work due to an assortment of ailments, primarily fibromyalgia. Her claim was doomed by (1) a medical expert who testified at her hearing that she was capable of “light” work; and (2) a vocational expert who testified that such work included some of her past jobs. On appeal, the claimant argued that the ALJ’s decision improperly discounted the opinion of her treating nurse practitioner, who stated that claimant’s fibromyalgia rendered her incapable of any kind of work. The court rejects this contention, noting that under circuit precedent, nurse practitioners generally do not qualify as “accepted medical sources,” unless they are working under the supervision and as an “agent” of a physician, and in this case such evidence was lacking. Thus the nurse’s opinion was relegated to the lesser evidentiary category of “other sources,” depriving it of the deference due to a treating medical provider, and allowing the ALJ to discount it based on the medical expert’s testimony of “light work” capability.