United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL McSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision denying his application for
social security disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. This Court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
January 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for
benefits, alleging disability as of January 15, 2012. Tr.
After a hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ)
determined Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. Tr. 271. Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in
rejecting his subjective symptom testimony, in rejecting the
examining medical source opinion of Dr. Burns, and in not
discussing the treatment note of Dr. Laidler. 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).
hearing, Plaintiff alleged his headaches were so severe they
stop him in his tracks. Tr. 313. He stated these headaches
sometimes last all day and occur three to five times a week.
Tr. 318. In a disability report, Plaintiff wrote that his
headaches force him to isolate himself from others. Tr. 566.
He also reported that his headaches impaired his ability to
take care of himself. Tr. 575.
determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: acoustic neuroma, a right internal auditory
canal mass, headaches, degenerative disc disease, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, major depressive disorder,
anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Tr. 270.
At step 4, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff:
has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), in that he
can lift fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds
frequently; stand or walk for six hours in an eight-hour
workday; and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. He
must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust,
gases, and all other pulmonary irritants. The claimant is
limited to simple, routine tasks and jobs with a Specific
Vocational Preparation (SVP) classification of one or two and
a General Educational Development (GED) level of two or less.
He can have no contact with the public and only occasional
contact with coworkers.
noted, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in rejecting his
subjective symptom testimony as to his limitations, in
rejecting the examining medical source opinion of Dr. Burns,
and in not discussing the treatment note of Dr. Laidler. 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 ...