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Diane Gibson v. Michael J. Astrue

October 19, 2012

DIANE GIBSON,
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 AND ORDER OF REMAND

Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on April 16, 2012, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on April 26, 2012.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on September 14, 2012. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on October 15, 2012. Plaintiff filed a Reply on October 18, 2012. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed April 18, 2012.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff asserts disability based on a combination of alleged impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 1168, 1262-72, 1583-84, 1595-1603). Plaintiff testified to pain of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 1583-84, 1598).

An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments with which some pain may be associated, including "diabetes mellitus II" (with related peripheral neuropathy*fn1 ), and "degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine" (A.R. 1168-70). The ALJ denied disability benefits, however, after finding Plaintiff's testimony "only partially credible" (A.R. 1171-72). The credibility analysis set forth in the ALJ's decision reads in full:

The claimant's allegations are considered to be only partially credible as there is little in the way of objective signs, symptoms and findings in the record to support her allegations to the extent alleged. Moreover, the severity of these allegations, however, is not commensurate with the finding of disability based on meeting or equaling the listings and these findings do not support any limitations that are more restrictive than what is found herein.

(A.R. 1171). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1158-60).

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 Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

DISCUSSION

When an ALJ determines that a claimant's testimony regarding pain severity is not credible, the ALJ must make "specific, cogent" findings, supported in the record, to justify the ALJ's determination. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834 (9th Cir. 1995); see Rashad v. Sullivan, 903 F.2d 1229, 1231 (9th Cir. 1990); Varney v. Secretary, 846 F.2d 581, 584 (9th Cir. 1988).*fn2 Generalized, conclusory findings do not suffice. See Moisa v. Barnhart, 367 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2004) (the ALJ's credibility findings "must be sufficiently specific to allow a reviewing court to conclude the ALJ rejected the claimant's testimony on permissible grounds and did not arbitrarily discredit the claimant's testimony") (internal citations and quotations omitted); Holohan v. Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1208 (9th Cir. 2001) (the ALJ must "specifically identify the testimony [the ALJ] finds not to be credible and must explain what evidence undermines the testimony"); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1284 (9th Cir. 1996) ("The ...


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