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Rosa M. Suarez Sanchez v. Carolyn W. Colvin


March 28, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge


Rosa M. Suarez Sanchez ("Plaintiff") challenges the Social Security Commissioner's ("Defendant") decision denying her application for disability benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly rejected her credibility. (See Joint Stip. at 4-13, 16.) The Court disagrees.

An ALJ can reject a claimant's subjective complaints by expressing clear and convincing reasons for doing so. Benton v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 1030, 1040 (9th Cir. 2003). "General findings are insufficient; rather, the ALJ must identify what testimony is not credible and what evidence undermines the claimant's complaints."

Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834 (9th Cir. 1995).

Here, the ALJ presented two reasons*fn2 in support of his credibility determination.

First, the ALJ observed that, though Plaintiff certainly had hypertension and asthma, the results from her cardiovascular stress test indicated that those conditions were not as severe as she alleged them to be. (AR at 40-41); see Rollins v. Massanari, 261 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001) (inconsistencies with objective evidence, when combined with other factors, is a valid reason for rejecting a claimant's testimony). Specifically, the test results revealed that Plaintiff had a "fair" exercise capacity, and terminated the test only due to fatigue, not shortness of breath. (AR at 940.)

Similarly, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff's complaints of a "gradually worsening polyarthralgias" -- joint pain that first affected her hands, wrists, and shoulders, but then expanded to her neck and knees -- are inconsistent with the medical record, which suggested milder symptoms. (AR at 40; see AR at 324.) An x-ray of Plaintiff's right hand, for instance, demonstrated no abnormalities. (AR at 311.) Likewise, an examination noted that her knees were normal, except for an "incidental finding of a bipartite left patella." (AR at 763.) A spinal MRI revealed only "mild degenerative changes." (AR at 313.) Indeed, Plaintiff's physical examinations indicated, at most, only mild to moderate joint tenderness throughout her body. (AR at 325, 517-19, 982-83.) Given such inconsistencies, the ALJ committed no error here.

Second, the ALJ observed that Plaintiff's allegedly disabling foot pain appeared to be resolved with minimal treatment.*fn3 (AR at 39); see Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 604 (9th Cir. 1989) (ALJ properly considered discrepancies between claimant's allegations of pain, and the nature and extent of treatment obtained). In November 2006, an x-ray of Plaintiff's feet exhibited a "un-united fracture." (AR at 40; see AR at 310.) After initial treatment with a cast, Plaintiff underwent surgery in March 2008, and subsequently complained of only "occasional mild discomfort." (AR at 327.) By September 2008, the condition appeared to be resolved, as Dr. Scott Forman, Plaintiff's treating orthopedic surgeon, found "no objective factors of impairment" in her left lower extremity. (AR at 616.) In light of such compelling evidence of recovery, the ALJ thus properly rejected the severity of pain alleged by Plaintiff.

Accordingly, the Court finds that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled. See Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59 (9th Cir. 2001).

Based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED THAT judgment shall be entered AFFIRMING the decision of the Commissioner denying benefits.

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