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Michelle Ward v. Michael J. Astrue

June 13, 2012

MICHELLE WARD,
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 December 2, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on January 3, 2012.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on May 9, 2012. Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on June 8, 2012. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed December 5, 2011.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff alleged that psychiatric problems have disabled her since May 2, 2006 (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 43-58, 126-36). An administrative law judge ("ALJ") examined the record and heard testimony from Plaintiff (A.R. 27-275).

The ALJ found Plaintiff has a severe "delusional disorder," but retains the residual functional capacity "to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: unskilled entry-level work in a low-stress nonpublic setting" (A.R. 29-30). The ALJ found not credible Plaintiff's testimony regarding the severity of her psychological problems (A.R. 31-32). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).

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*fn1 legal error. Plaintiff's contrary contentions are unavailing.*fn2

I. The ALJ Did Not Materially Err in Evaluating Plaintiff's Credibility.

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly discounted Plaintiff's credibility. 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 symptoms 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); but see Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1282-84 (9th Cir. 1996) ...


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