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Mattie L. Pruitt v. Michael J. Astrue

June 5, 2012

MATTIE L. PRUITT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles F. Eick United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on October 3, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on October 26, 2011.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on May 1, 2012. Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on May 31, 2012. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed October 4, 2011.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former custodian, asserted disability since June 18, 2008, based primarily on alleged pain (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 26-35, 140-48). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") reviewed the record and heard testimony from Plaintiff and from a vocational expert (A.R. 9-413). The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of an "ankle disorder and back disorder," but retains the residual functional capacity to perform light work with certain restrictions (A.R. 15). Relying on the vocation expert's testimony, the ALJ concluded that there exist significant numbers of jobs Plaintiff can perform (A.R. 18-19, 36-37). The Appeals Council apparently denied review.*fn1

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see also Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

This Court "may not affirm [the Administration's] decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence, but must also consider evidence that detracts from [the Administration's] conclusion." Ray v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 914, 915 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation and quotations omitted); see Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504

F.3d 1028 (9th Cir. 2007) (same). However, the Court cannot disturb findings supported by substantial evidence, even though there may exist other evidence supporting Plaintiff's claim. See Torske v. Richardson, 484 F.2d 59, 60 (9th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 417 U.S. 933 (1974); Harvey v. Richardson, 451 F.2d 589, 590 (9th Cir. 1971).

DISCUSSION

After consideration of the record as a whole, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied. The Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material*fn2 legal error.

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding Plaintiff's subjective complaints not fully credible. For the reasons discussed below, this argument lacks merit.

An ALJ's assessment of a claimant's credibility is entitled to "great weight." Anderson v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1121, 1124 (9th Cir. 1990); Nyman v. Heckler, 779 F.2d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 1985). The discounting of a claimant's testimony regarding subjective complaints must be supported by specific, cogent findings. See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1234 (9th Cir. 2010) (reaffirming same); Varney v. Secretary of Health and Human Serv., 846 F.2d 581, 584 (9th Cir. 1988) (generally discussing specificity requirement); but see Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1282-84 (9th Cir. 1996) (indicating that ALJ must offer "specific, clear and convincing" reasons to reject a ...

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