United States District Court, D. Oregon
A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brings this proceeding to obtain judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's
application for disability insurance and supplemental
security income benefits. Plaintiff asserts disability
beginning October 22, 2013, due to back pain, high blood
pressure, swelling feet, headaches, and chest pain. Tr. 231,
hearing held on September 26, 2016, an administrative law
judge (ALJ) determined plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff
asserts the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to provide legally
sufficient reasons for rejecting plaintiff's symptom
testimony; and (2) relying on expert testimony based on an
incomplete picture of plaintiff's limitations.
testified she can't work because: she suffers from pain
after sitting for ten to fifteen minutes; has to elevate her
feet two times a day; has swelling in both hands with loss of
strength and tingling in her fingers; has a limited range of
motion; and gets sick throughout the day from her pain pills.
Tr. 94. Plaintiff testified she had fusion surgery in 2014
and has had balance issues and left foot drop since then. Tr.
96-97. Plaintiff also testified she stopped physical therapy
because “it hurt more than helped.” Tr. 95. In
addition, plaintiff noted she had planned on further surgery
to implant a spinal cord stimulator to address her pain
issues. Tr. 94, 95-96.
found plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to
perform light work specifically finding plaintiff:
could lift and/or carry ten pounds frequently, twenty pounds
occasionally; she can stand and/or walk for six hours out of
an eight-hour workday; she can sit for six hours out of an
eight-hour workday; she can occasionally climb ladders, ropes
and scaffolds, stoop, and crawl; she can frequently kneel and
climb ramps and stairs; and she is to avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold and hazards.
Tr. 58. Based on this finding and expert testimony, the ALJ
determined plaintiff is capable of performing her past
relevant work as a secretary and rehabilitation clerk. Tr.
62. In addition, the ALJ determined plaintiff could perform
other work including receptionist, bookkeeper, and credit
interviewer. Tr. 63-64.
accepted plaintiff's testimony only to the extent her
testimony is consistent with the conclusion she can do the
work described above. Tr. 59. The ALJ otherwise rejected
plaintiff's testimony because plaintiff “engaged in
a somewhat normal level of daily activity and interaction.
The claimant admitted activities of daily living including
she drives, did the books for church, mops, sweeps, does
dishes, shops, goes to the movies, goes out to eat, and goes
to church.” Tr. 59. The ALJ also found the physical and
mental capabilities required to perform these daily
activities replicate those necessary for obtaining and
maintaining employment. Tr. 59. In addition, the ALJ, while
accepting that plaintiff's medical impairments could
reasonably cause the alleged symptoms, found the limiting
effects of the symptoms were inconsistent with the medical
evidence. Tr. 59. Moreover, the ALJ found the treatment
record revealed routine, conservative, and non-emergency
treatment since the alleged onset date. Tr. 60.
specifically testified regarding her daily activities:
... So I read a lot. I can't write as much as I used to.
I used to keep, like, journals. And I did, like, a lot of
administrative work for my church previously, until I had the
accident and started -- you know, I couldn't keep the
accounting books anymore. And I really can't do, like,
computer work or anything like that anymore. So I, kind of,
just read and help my daughter.
Now, what I do have a problem with, like, say, if I have to
mop or sweep or stand at the sink and do something, then I
have that -- like, the pain from this side, and I can't
stand there very long to do it. So I get a lot of help from
my daughter. You know, her friends help me and my other
family members, whenever they visit, help.
Tr. 97-98. Plaintiff further testified: she helps prepare
meals; cannot do dishes, vacuum, or grocery shops; does not
go to movies “as much anymore”; goes to eat out
“now and then”; and goes to church, but sits
close to the end of the pew so she ...