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Elam v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 17, 2014

MICHELLE M. ELAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES F. EICK, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on June 20, 2013, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on August 6, 2013.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on December 10, 2013. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on January 9, 2014. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order, " filed June 24, 2013.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff asserted disability based on a variety of alleged impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 9-327). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the record and heard testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (see id.).

The ALJ found Plaintiff has certain severe impairments, but retains the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of sedentary work (A.R. 15-19). Applying the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, the ALJ found Plaintiff disabled beginning May 8, 2012, Plaintiff's 50th birthday (A.R. 19-20). However, the ALJ also found that, prior to May 8, 2012, Plaintiff could perform the sedentary job of "order clerk" (A.R. 19-21). The ALJ deemed not fully credible Plaintiff's contrary testimony (A.R. 18-19). The ALJ also rejected the conclusory opinions of Plaintiff's treating physician, who had opined, inter alia, that Plaintiff lacked the sitting capacity required for sedentary work (A.R. 16-18, 308-09). 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 proper 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); Widmark v. Barnhart , 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

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[1] legal error. Plaintiff's contrary arguments are unavailing.[2]

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

Although Plaintiff testified to subjective symptoms of allegedly disabling severity, the ALJ found this testimony less than fully credible (A.R. 18-19, 30-35). Contrary to Plaintiff's arguments, the ALJ did not thereby materially err.

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) (indicating that ALJ must offer "specific, clear and convincing" reasons to reject a claimant's testimony ...


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