Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Garner v. Astrue

August 24, 2009

DAVID C. GARNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen J. Hillman United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

I. PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff David Garner filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, on September 27, 2004, alleging disability onset date of February 1, 2002. AR 62. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration on April 8, 2005. AR 11. Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing on June 8, 2005. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on April 24, 2007, at which Plaintiff appeared and testified. Also appearing and testifying were Samuel Landau, M.D., a medical expert, and Sandra Fioretti, a vocational expert. AR 11. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 9, 2007. AR 17. The Appeals Council denied review on January 24, 2008. AR 3. Plaintiff alleges disability due to depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and pain in his back and shoulder. AR 73, 247-52.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff and Defendant filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on December 8, 2008. Plaintiff asserts three claims of error. First, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider and address the totality of relevant medical evidence of record which is supportive of his claim. Second, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly evaluated his testimony of mental impairment. Third, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly evaluated the Questionnaire testimony of Plaintiff's wife. For the reasons shown below, the Commissioner's decision denying benefits is affirmed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled may be set aside when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Schneider v. Commissioner of the SSA, 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000).

"Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance - it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995). "[The Court reviews] the administrative record in its entirety to decide whether substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision exists, weighing evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the ALJ's determination."

Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992). The Court may not affirm the ALJ's decision "simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence." Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989).

III. DISCUSSION

a. The ALJ Properly Considered the Totality of Relevant Medical Evidence

First, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ did not properly consider the totality of relevant medical evidence in the record which is supportive of his claim. JS 2. Specifically, Plaintiff points to symptoms reported during a behavioral health intake evaluation at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Loma Linda, CA, on June 15, 2004. JS 2. During this intake, Plaintiff reported that he experienced symptoms as a part of his psychological history, including reoccurring nightmares, loss of sleep, and anti-social behavior. JS 2-6. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should have discussed the impact of these symptoms and limitations on his ability to sustain full time competitive employment. JS 7.

"In Social Security cases the ALJ has a special duty to fully and fairly develop the record and to assure that the claimant's interests are considered." Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1287 (9th Cir. 1996), Brown v. Heckler, 713 F.2d 441, 443 (9th Cir. 1983). However, in fulfilling this duty, it is not necessary for the ALJ to discuss all the evidence of record. See Vincent v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394 (9th Cir. 1984).

In that an absence of detailed discussion on any particular matter within an ALJ's Decision does not necessarily indicate an improper consideration of the record, it is a reminder that the burden to prove a disability, including the impact of symptoms resulting in functional limitations, belongs to Plaintiff. See Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458 (9th Cir. 2001)("It was Mayes' duty to prove that she was disabled"); 42 USCS § 423 (d)(5) (Supp. 2001). Here, the symptoms Plaintiff refers to are subjective symptoms that he reported to a doctor during an intake evaluation. Plaintiff alone may describe his symptoms with firsthand knowledge, but in the context of Social Security DIB, his statements are nevertheless subject to determinations of credibility, and are regarded differently than objective evidence that is assessed and submitted by a medical professional. Of note, the ALJ did discuss the intake evaluation in his Decision. He stated:

"On June 15, 2004, at Loma Linda Veterans Administration Hospital, the claimant complained of depression and anxiety. (Exhibit 1F. p.9). He stated that he can concentrate without too much trouble but complained of recent memory loss (Exhibit 1F. p.10). On mental status examination, the claimant was well-groomed and somewhat anxious, speech was normal, mood varied between anxious and depressed, affect was slightly constricted, though ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.