United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United States District Judge
September 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for
benefits, alleging disability as of January 28, 2003. At the
hearing, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
amended the alleged onset date to May 17, 2013. Tr.
After the hearing, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. Tr. 26. Plaintiff
argues the ALJ erred in rejecting her subjective symptom
testimony, in rejecting the treating medical source opinion
of Dr. Huth, and in rejecting lay witness testimony. This
Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
and 1383(c)(3). 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).
disability function report, Plaintiff alleged she was
incapable of lifting more than five pounds. Tr. 220.
Plaintiff wrote that she cannot walk or run “without
wanting to pass out.” Tr. 221. Plaintiff wrote that she
cannot walk more than five minutes without needing to rest.
Tr. 273. Plaintiff stated she was able to watch television
and use the computer “all day.” Tr. 224.
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: obesity, nonischemic cardiomyopathy, Grave's
disease, congestive heart failure, degenerative disc disease,
and diabetes mellitus. Tr. 26. At step 4, the ALJ determined
has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary
work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except the claimant can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and climb ramps
and stairs. The claimant can never crawl and climb ladders,
ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally reach
overhead with the left upper extremity. The claimant can have
no exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme
vibrations, and hazards, such as machinery and unprotected
noted, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in rejecting her
subjective symptom testimony as to her limitations, in
rejecting the treating medical source opinion of Dr. Huth,
and in rejecting the lay witness testimony. I address each
argument in turn.
The ALJ's Adverse Credibility Determination
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)). Still, the ALJ
must provide “specific, clear and convincing
reasons” to discredit subjective symptoms testimony.
Vasquez v. Astrue, 572, F.3d 586, 591
(9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Smolen v.
Charter, 80 F.3d 1273, 1282 (9th Cir. 1996)). In
formulating these reasons, the ALJ “may consider a
range of factors in assessing credibility.” Ghanim
v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154, 1163 (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 ...