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Dougherty v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

May 19, 2014

PENNY DOUGHERTY, Plaintiff.
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES A. REDDEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Penny Dougherty brings this action to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed and this matter is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Dougherty filed her application for DIB on August 12, 2008, alleging disability since March 15; 2008, due to "[c]ollapsing vertebrate lumbar spine/bulging disks thoraci, Diabetes." Tr. 127-28. Dougherty was 60 years old on her alleged onset date. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was held on March 16, 2011. Tr. 30-49. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found her not disabled. Dougherty's request for review was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

ALJ's DECISION

The ALJ found Dougherty had the medically determinable severe impairments of degenerative disc disease status post spinal surgeries in 1977 and 1987, and obesity. Tr. 19.

The ALJ found that Dougherty's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Tr. 24.

The ALJ determined that Dougherty retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, or crouch or crawl. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, and kneel. She should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and hazards. Tr. 21.

At step four, the ALJ found Dougherty was capable of performing her past relevant work as a bookkeeper and data entry clerk. Tr. 24.

Dougherty argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) finding her not fully credible; (2) inaccurately assessing her RFC; (3) failing to develop the record; (4) improperly evaluating diabetes; and (5) improperly evaluating obesity.

DISCUSSION

I. Credibility

The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). However, the ALJ's findings must be supported by specific, cogent reasons. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir.1998). Unless there Is affirmative evidence showing that the claimant is malingering, the Commissioner's reason for rejecting the claimant's testimony must be "clear and convincing." Id. The ALJ must identify what testimony is not credible and what evidence undermines the claimant's complaints. Id. The evidence upon which the ALJ relies must be substantial. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 724. See also Holohan v. Massinari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1208 (9th Cir. 2001). General findings (e.g., "record in general" indicates improvement) are an insufficient basis to support an adverse credibility determination. Reddick at 722. See also Holohan, 246 F.3d at 1208. The ALJ must make a credibility determination with findings sufficiently specific to permit the court to conclude that the ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit the claimant's testimony. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 958 (9th Cir. 2002).

In deciding whether to accept a claimant's subjective symptom testimony, "an ALJ must perform two stages of analysis: the Cotton analysis and an analysis of the credibility of the claimant's testimony regarding the severity of her symptoms." [Footnote ...


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