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Ronald James Pope v. Carolyn W. Colvin

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


April 30, 2013

RONALD JAMES POPE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,*FN1 DEFENDANT.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Ronald James Pope ("Plaintiff") challenges the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying his application for disability benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") improperly rejected his credibility. (Joint Stip. at 4-8, 13-15.) The Court addresses -- and rejects -- Plaintiff's contentions below.

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 provided two valid reasons in support of his credibility determination.

First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's behavior in relation to his treatment history undermined the alleged severity of his impairments. (AR at 24); see Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir. 1989) (failure to follow prescribed course of treatment can cast doubt on sincerity of claimant's pain testimony). For instance, when Plaintiff visited the Veterans Administration in May 2008, he had already been living without his medications for six months, suggesting that his condition was more benign than alleged. (Id.; see AR at 257.) Also indicating milder symptoms is Plaintiff's testimony that he no longer takes Vicodin for his pain. (AR at 24; see AR at 80.) Lastly, and perhaps most troubling, Plaintiff has continued to consume alcohol despite warnings from his doctors regarding its adverse effects on his neuropathy and gout.*fn2 (AR at 24; see, e.g., AR at 258, 262, 276, 292, 298, 301.) Given these inconsistencies, the ALJ made no error in discrediting Plaintiff.

Second, though Plaintiff alleges intense foot pain, the ALJ found the severity of this complaint to be weakened by Plaintiff's daily activities. (AR at 23-24.) Indeed, Plaintiff's foot pain is apparently so severe that he cannot stand for longer than 15- to 20-minutes. (AR at 23; see AR at 75.) Yet, despite these alleged difficulties, Plaintiff was, for example, able to move his belongings when relocating to another home. (AR at 23-24; see AR at 183.) Notably, with respect to that move, Plaintiff only described pain resulting from "lift[ing] heavy things," such as his bed dresser. (AR at 183.) Were Plaintiff's foot pain as severe as alleged, one would not expect Plaintiff to engage in such physically demanding activities. Thus, as to this ground, the ALJ's credibility determination remains intact.*fn3

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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