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Amundson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 16, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


MICHAEL McSHANE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mindy Amundson brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying plaintiffs application for disability insurance benefits. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

Plaintiff seeks benefits as of May 14, 2007. The administrative law judge (ALJ) determined plaintiff was not disabled as of plaintiffs last insured date of December 31, 2010. TR 30.[1] Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly discounting the credibility of the plaintiffs testimony concerning the severity of her symptoms and the functional limitations of her impairments; and (2) improperly discounting the opinions of two treating physicians. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.


The reviewing court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r for Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.Jd 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, we review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, the reviewing court may not substitute its judgment' for that of the Commissioner, " and therefore must affirm. Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir. 1996)).


The Social Security Administration utilizes a five step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The burden of proving the claimant's disability rests upon the claimant until the fifth and final step of the analysis, at which point the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is capable of making an adjustment to work other than what she has done before. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

The ALJ found that December 31, 2010 was the date that plaintiff last had social security insurance. TR 21. Plaintiff does not dispute this finding. Accordingly, plaintiff needed to demonstrate that she had a qualifying disability no later than December 31, 2010, her last insured date. The ALJ found plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work. TR 23. Based on the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a merchandiser. TR 30. Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Social Security Act. Id

Because the ALJ's findings are based on proper legal standards and supported by substantial evidence in the record, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.

1. The ALJ's Adverse Credibility Determination.

Where, as here, the plaintiff presented objective medical evidence of an impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms she has testified to, the ALJ can reject that testimony only by giving "specific, clear and convincing reasons" for the rejection. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035-36 (9th Cir.2007). The ALJ is not "required to believe every allegation of disabling pain, or else disability benefits would be available for the asking, a result plainly contrary to 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A)." Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir.1989)).

The ALJ "may consider a wide range of factors in assessing credibility." Ghanim v. Colvin, 12-35804, 2014 WL 4056530, at *7 (9th Cir. Aug. 18, 2014). These factors can include "ordinary techniques of Credibility evaluation, " id., as well as:

(1) whether the claimant engages in daily activities inconsistent with the alleged symptoms; (2) whether the claimant takes medication or undergoes other treatment for the symptoms; (3) whether the claimant fails to follow, without adequate explanation, a prescribed course of treatment; and ...

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