United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United States District Judge
Dorothy Yvonne Lambert brings this action for judicial review
of the Commissioner's decision denying her application
for supplemental security income (“SSI”). This
court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
September 14, 2012, Lambert filed an application for SSI.
After a hearing, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) determined Lambert was not disabled under
the Social Security Act. Tr. 30. Lambert argues the ALJ erred
in finding her less-than credible and in rejecting the
opinion of Kaitlin Haws, Lambert's treating nurse
practitioner (“NP”). Because the
Commissioner's decision is based on proper legal
standards and supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner'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 of
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, 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.” 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.
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920
(2012). The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant
to meet the first four steps. If the claimant satisfies his
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 must show 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.
Id. If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden,
then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the
Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. Bustamante v.
Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).
concluded Lambert suffered from severe impairments of carpal
tunnel syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
(“COPD”), and bipolar disorder. Tr. 23. At the
hearing, Lambert testified her COPD posed the most severe
limitations in her ability to work full-time, but that severe
depression left her unable to get out of bed for several days
at a time a couple of times each month. The ALJ found Lambert
less-than fully credible regarding the extent of her
self-reported limitations and, after weighing the medical
evidence and opinions, concluded Lambert possessed the RFC to
perform light work while sitting up to 8 hours in an 8 hour
work day and standing and walking for 2 hours in that day.
The vocational expert opined someone with Lambert's RFC
as constructed by the ALJ could perform several jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy. Therefore,
the ALJ concluded Lambert was not disabled under the act.
noted above, Lambert argues the ALJ erred in finding her
less-than fully credible and in rejecting the opinion of her
treating NP. I turn first to the ALJ's adverse
September 10, 2014 hearing, Lambert testified to severe
limitations. For example, Lambert testified she could not
walk the five blocks from the bus stop to the clinic. Tr. 42.
On days when she did not have to go to the clinic to get
methadone, Lambert would “hang out around the
apartment” because she could no longer walk. Tr. 43
(“I try doing-I tried walking and I just can't.
Like a block my back is just hurting so bad, and I can't
breathe right. So, I cut that out. So, I pretty much
don't do anything.”). Lambert testified her COPD
was her most serious condition as she was “short of
breath all the time.” Tr. 47.
stated she suffered from “crippling” migraine
headaches a couple times a week that last a day or two. Tr.
49-50. When medicine did not relieve the migraines, Lambert
had to lie down in a dark room with a washcloth on her
forehead. Tr. 50. Most of the time, medicine did not relieve
the migraines. Tr. 51. Lambert also was bedridden for a
couple of days at a time due to severe depression. Tr. 51.
These bouts of depression occurred once or twice each month,
lasting on average four days per occurrence. Tr. 51.
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 (4) whether the alleged symptoms are
consistent with the medical evidence.
Lingenfelter v. Astrue,
504 F.3d 1028, 1040 (9th
Cir.2007). The ALJ in this case supported his credibility
determination with references to several ...