Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

Raedene Marlene Chico v. Michael J. Astrue

October 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marc L. Goldman United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Raedene Marlene Chico ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"), pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is remanded for further proceedings.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff was born on May 29, 1978 and was 30 years old at the time she filed her applications for benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 136). She has work experience as a dispatcher. (AR at 67).

On January 30, 2009, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since May 14, 2008, due to a back injury, pain and numbness in her legs, depression, and anxiety. (AR at 167). The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications by initial determination. (AR at 60, 79-83).

An administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Selwyn Walters on March 19, 2010. (AR at 16-54). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at the hearing. (AR at 22-50). In a written decision dated May 28, 2010, the ALJ found: Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 14, 2008, the date she filed applications for DIB and SSI (step one); Plaintiff has medically determinable severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, an annular tear at L5-S1 of the lumbosacral spine and obesity (step two); Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any impairment in the Listings of Impairments (step three); Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work except she would need to alternate sitting and standing once an hour for 10 minutes at a time in addition to regularly scheduled breaks; and Plaintiff would be able to perform her past relevant work as a dispatcher (step four). (AR at 60-68). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR at 68).

On January 24, 2012, the Appeals Council denied review, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR at 73-77). Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review on April 19, 2012. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation of disputed issues of law and fact on October 4, 2012. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ: (1) failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility; and (2) failed to properly evaluate the opinions of Plaintiff's physicians. (Joint Stipulation at 4-7, 11-16, 17-18). Plaintiff seeks remand for payment of benefits or, in the alternative, remand for further proceedings. (Joint Stipulation at 18). The Commissioner requests that the ALJ's decision be affirmed. (Joint Stipulation at 19).

II. Standard of Review

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's or ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court "must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1996). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 720-721.

III. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Credibility

Plaintiff alleges she suffers from significant pain and limitations due to her low back impairment. (AR 30-39). She alleges that she can stand for 10 to 15 minutes and sit for approximately 30 minutes at a time. (AR at 40, 49). Plaintiff stated that she needs help with activities such as cooking, laundry, washing dishes, making her bed, vacuuming, cleaning the house, and fixing her hair. (AR at 40-42).

The ALJ found Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony not fully credible. (AR at 65-66). The ALJ explained that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the pain symptoms, but that Plaintiff's allegations concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not credible to the extent alleged. (AR at 66). The ALJ based this adverse credibility determination on a lack of objective medical evidence to substantiate the severity of Plaintiff's symptoms and inconsistent test results on lumbosacral spine examinations. (AR at 65-66).

However, it is improper to discount a claimant's credibility solely due to a lack of objective medical evidence to corroborate a claimant's subjective symptom testimony, where, as in this case, there is objective medical evidence of underlying impairments. Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 345 (9th Cir. 1991) ("Once the claimant produces objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment, an adjudicator may not reject a claimant's subjective complaints based solely on a lack of objective medical evidence to fully corroborate the alleged severity of pain."); see also Reddick, 157 F.3d at 722; Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1281--82 & n. 2 (9th Cir. 1996). Where there is no evidence of malingering, the ALJ may reject the ...

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.