United States District Court, D. Oregon
MATHEW M. WOOD, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United State District Judge
Mathew M. Wood filed his application for disability insurance
benefits on April 23, 2012. Tr. 25. After a hearing, the
administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a written decision
finding Wood not disabled. Tr. 25-34.
brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision denying his application for
disability insurance benefits. This Court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Because
the ALJ's decision was based on the proper legal
standards and supported by substantial evidence, the
ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED.
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision 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.3d 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, the court reviews the
administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence
that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's
decision. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th
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
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to meet the
first four steps. If the claimant satisfies her burden with
respect to the first four steps, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner for step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At
step five, the Commissioner's burden is to demonstrate
that the claimant is capable of making an adjustment to other
work after considering the claimant's residual functional
capacity (RFC), age, education, and work experience.
considering step four of the sequential analysis, the ALJ
determined that Wood has the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform sedentary work, with certain exceptions. Tr.
29. The certain exceptions are that Wood is limited to
“no more than occasional kneeling, crouching, crawling,
stooping, or climbing. He could frequently balance. He had to
avoid exposure to vibrations.” Tr. 29. In determining
Wood's RFC, the ALJ found that Wood's medically
determinable impairments could have caused the alleged
symptoms but that Wood's statements regarding the
intensity of the alleged symptoms were not entirely credible
because they contradicted objective medical evidence,
improved with treatment, and contradicted his daily
activities. Tr. 30-33. Wood argues that the ALJ failed to
adequately reject, or even include in the RFC determination,
his testimony regarding his memory impairments caused by his
medication. Pl.'s Br. 7, ECF No. 14. Thus, at issue is
the ALJ's credibility determination of Wood's
statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of his pain and symptoms, as well as his statements
regarding the side effects of his medication, in the
ALJ's RFC analysis under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545.
The ALJ's Adverse Credibility Determination Regarding
Wood's Pain and Symptom Testimony
assessing a claimant's pain and symptom testimony, the
ALJ engages in a two-step analysis. Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). In the
first step, “the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant has presented objective medical evidence of an
underlying impairment ‘which could reasonably be
expected to produce the pain or other symptoms
alleged.'” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504
F.3d 1028, 1036 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bunnell v.
Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 344 (9th Cir. 1991)). If the
claimant meets the first step, and the ALJ has not determined
that the claimant is malingering, “the ALJ can reject
the claimant's testimony about the severity of her
symptoms only by offering specific, clear and convincing
reasons for doing so.” Id. at 1036 (quoting
Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1281 (9th Cir.
1996)). The reasons for doing so must be “sufficiently
specific to permit the reviewing court to conclude that the
ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit the claimant's
testimony.” Orteza v. Shalala, 50 F.3d 748,
750 (9th Cir. 1995).
“may consider a range of factors [when] assessing
credibility.” Ghanim v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154.
1163 (9th Cir. 2014). These factors can include, but are not
(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 (4) whether the alleged symptoms are
consistent with the medical evidence.
Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1040. In the present case,
the ALJ supported his credibility determination with
reference to several of the above factors.
found that the objective medical evidence indicated that
Wood's symptoms were not as debilitating as he testified.
Wood testified that he has trouble getting out of bed, spends
most of his day lying down, can only stand in place for 15
minutes at a time, and cannot sit for prolonged periods
without numbness and pain in his legs. Tr. 57, 63-64.
However, the objective medical evidence indicates otherwise.
The ALJ pointed to different medical records indicating that
Wood functions at a higher level than alleged. Tr. 30-33. For
example, the ALJ noted Dr. Patrick Rask's opinion that
Wood demonstrated “normal strength and reflexes in all
extremities.” Tr. 31. Most recently, the ALJ noted that
the opinion of Dr. Todd Lewis that Wood was able to ambulate
with a normal gait pattern, showed good balance and
coordination, exhibited full range of motion in his joints,
and did not show any signs of atrophy in his lower
extremities. Tr. 32. The state agency consultant, Dr. William
Habjan, found that Wood “retained the capacity to
perform a range of light-level exertion involving no more
than two hours of standing/walking in an 8-hour
workday.” Tr. 32. During a 2011 examination, Wood
“sat for 1 hour through the interview and without any
significant pain behavior.” Tr. 459. These opinions,
along with evidence in the record, are in direct conflict
with Wood's pain and symptom testimony that the ALJ
referenced before discussing the objective medical evidence.
See Tr. 30-32. The ALJ's finding that Wood's