United States District Court, D. Oregon
CLARA V. R.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. Russo, United States Magistrate Judge
Clara R. brings this action for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits. All parties have
consented to allow a Magistrate Judge enter final orders and
judgment in this case in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and this case is
remanded for further proceedings.
February 2015, plaintiff applied for Title II benefits
alleging disability beginning March 10, 2014, due to
diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic
pain, and hip, knee, and ankle arthritis. Tr. 157-58, 178.
Born in 1950, plaintiff was 63 years old as of the alleged
onset date. Tr. 157, 174. Plaintiff's application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 93-95, 101-03.
On May 18, 2017, a hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”), wherein plaintiff was
represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational
expert. Tr. 44-71. On July 7, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
finding plaintiff not disabled on or before March 31, 2016,
the date last insured. Tr. 28-39. After the Appeals Council
denied her request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in
this Court. Tr. 1-6.
one of the five step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ
found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 30. At step two,
the ALJ determined the following impairments were medically
determinable and severe: “bilateral knee
osteoarthritis; ankle osteoarthritis; glaucoma; edema;
cellulitis; stasis dermatitis; polyneuropathy; diabetes;
obesity; and hypertension.” Id. At step three,
the ALJ found plaintiff's impairments, either singly or
in combination, did not meet or equal the requirements of a
listed impairment. Tr. 31.
plaintiff did not establish presumptive disability at step
three, the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiff's
impairments affected her ability to work. The ALJ resolved
that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of
[She] could occasionally lift and carry 10 pounds and
frequently lift and carry less than 10 pounds. She could sit
up to six hours in an eight-hour day and stand and walk two
hours total in an eight-hour day. Further, [plaintiff] could
push and pull as much as she can lift and carry. She was
limited to occasionally climbing ramps, stairs, ladders, and
scaffolds. Additionally, [plaintiff] was limited to frequent
stooping. She was also limited to occasionally kneeling,
crouching, and crawling. Due to vision difficulties,
[plaintiff] was restricted from hazards, such as working at
unprotected heights, working around heavy machinery, and
operating a motor vehicle, but was able to avoid ordinary
hazards in the workplace. Finally, she was limited to no
concentrated exposure to extreme cold conditions and no
concentrated exposure to machinery causing vibrations.
four, the ALJ determined plaintiff was capable of performing
her past relevant work as a medical clerk. Tr. 38.
argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) discrediting her subjective
symptom testimony; (2) rejecting the medical opinion of Jane
Drummond, M.D.; and (3) failing to find her presumptively
disabled at step three under listing 1.02.
asserts the ALJ erred by discrediting her subjective symptom
testimony concerning the extent and severity of her
impairments. When a claimant has medically documented
impairments that could reasonably be expected to produce some
degree of the symptoms complained of, and the record contains
no affirmative evidence of malingering, “the ALJ can
reject the claimant's testimony about the severity of . .
. symptoms only by offering specific, clear and convincing
reasons for doing so.” Smolen v. Chater, 80
F.3d 1273, 1281 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal citation omitted).
A general assertion the claimant is not credible is
insufficient; the ALJ must “state which . . . testimony
is not credible and what evidence suggests the complaints are
not credible.” Dodrill v. Shalala, 12 F.3d
915, 918 (9th Cir. 1993). The reasons proffered 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) (internal citation omitted).
in formulating the RFC, the ALJ is not tasked with
“examining an individual's character” or
propensity for truthfulness, and instead assesses whether the
claimant's subjective symptom statements are consistent
with the record as a whole. SSR 16-3p, available at
2016 WL 1119029. If the ALJ's finding regarding the
claimant's subjective symptom testimony is
“supported by substantial evidence in the record, [the
court] may not engage in second-guessing.” Thomas
v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal
hearing, plaintiff testified that she was unable to work due
to ankle and knee pain. Tr. 49-50. Plaintiff explained her
pain had worsened over the years but she tried to limit her
consumption of pain medication, even though it helped ease
her symptoms, “because I don't want to become
addicted.” Tr. 50. She stated that she used a cane to
ambulate “[a]ll the time, yeah, indoors and
outdoors.” Tr. 51. Although she needed surgery in both
ankles, she could not go forward with this treatment because
of her weight. Tr. 51-52, 55.
terms of activities, plaintiff testified that she spent the
majority of the day - “at least eight hours” - in
bed, usually with her feet elevated. Tr. 58-60. She
acknowledged doing limited chores in short intervals - a load
of laundry, washing “a few dishes, ” and basic
food preparation. Tr. 60. She could drive but often used
Trimet LIFT due to pain. Tr. 48-49. Plaintiff testified
further that, on a “good day” and “with the
cane, ” she could walk “maybe one block”
but she has “more bad days” ...