United States District Court, D. Oregon
SHASTA N. F.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. Russo United States Magistrate Judge
Shasta F. brings this action for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Title XVI Social Security Income. 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 affirmed and this case is
1992, plaintiff alleges disability beginning October 1, 1995,
due to seizures, learning disabilities, attention deficit
disorder, and foot problems. Tr. 167, 182. On May 30, 2017, a
hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), wherein plaintiff was represented by
counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert
(“VE”) and medical expert (“ME”). Tr.
31-61. On July 5, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 13-23. 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 January 27, 2015, application date. Tr.
15. At step two, the ALJ determined the following impairments
were medically determinable and severe: “depressive
disorder not otherwise specified; learning disorders of
written expression, reading and math; and anxiety disorder
not otherwise specified.” 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. 16.
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 work at all exertional levels
but with the following non-exertional limitations:
“[She] can understand, remember, and apply information
to complete tasks that require a GED reasoning level of 2 or
less that do not require reading, writing, or math above a
fifth grade level in a setting with no public contact, no
teamwork assignments, and no exposure to hazards.” Tr.
four, the ALJ determined plaintiff had no past relevant work.
Tr. 22. At step five, the ALJ concluded, based on the
VE's testimony, that plaintiff could perform a
significant number of jobs in the national economy despite
her impairments, such as motel cleaner, price marker, and
laundry folder. Tr. 22-23.
argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) discrediting her subjective
symptom testimony; (2) rejecting the medical opinions of
Wayne Taubenfeld, Ph.D., and Dorothy Anderson, Ph.D.; and (3)
failing to account for all her limitations in the RFC,
thereby rendering an invalid step five finding.
asserts the ALJ erred by discrediting her subjective symptom
testimony concerning the severity of her mental
impairments. Pl.'s Opening Br. 10-13 (doc. 16).
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 she was unable to work because
“I can't remember a lot of things and I can't
be on my feet to long.” Tr. 49. She also testified that
her learning disability made reading and math “more
difficult.” Id. When asked what type of things
she was unable to remember, plaintiff responded:
“Certain words, how to spell them” and “the
names of common items.” Id. In regard to the
latter, plaintiff explained “everything blacks out
sometimes . . . I don't remember what happened 20 minutes
earlier.” Tr. 49-50, 53. She testified to experiencing
five such episodes in approximately the last six months. Tr.
31, 53. Plaintiff linked her recall problems and headaches to
an October 2015 car accident; the headaches began immediately
but the memory problems did not emerge until more than one
year later. Tr. 51-54. When her headaches are severe,
plaintiff stated she is unable to concentrate and needs
assistance with her two young children from her live-in
brother-in-law or husband. Tr. 54-55.
summarizing her hearing testimony, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could
reasonably be expected to produce some degree of symptoms,
but her “statements concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not
entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other
evidence in the record for the reasons explained in this
decision.” Tr. 18-20. Specifically, the ALJ found that
plaintiff's daily activities and failure to ...