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Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

September 9, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


STEPHEN J. HILLMAN, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the undersigned. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorized the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. Plaintiff and defendant have filed their pleadings, defendant has filed the certified transcript of record, and each party has filed its supporting brief. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes the Decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed.


Plaintiff, Berline Williams, applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on February 21, 2011. (AR 10, 99-100). Plaintiff alleges disability commencing November 10, 2010. (AR 99).

The Commissioner denied the application initially. (AR 58-60). A hearing on the claim was conducted on August 12, 2012 (AR 33-48). On August 17, 2012, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") issued an unfavorable Decision (AR 7-20). The Appeals Council denied the request of review. (AR 1-6). Plaintiff commenced this civil action seeking judicial review of her case.


A. The ALJ Properly Evaluated Plaintiff's Credibility

Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate her credibility and assess her subjective complaints. In response, Defendant argues that the ALJ articulated clear and convincing reasons why Plaintiff's statements of disability were inapposite with the administrative record.

When assessing the residual functional capacity, the ALJ must evaluate the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the individual symptoms to determine the extent to which the symptoms limit the individual's ability to do basic work activities. Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715 (9th Cir. 1998). Subjective symptoms are highly idiosyncratic and sometimes suggest a greater severity of impairment than is demonstrated by objective and medical findings alone. Bunnell v. Sullivan , 947 F.2d 341, 345 (9th Cir. 1991). Therefore, once the claimant produces medical evidence of an underlying impairment, the ALJ may not discredit the claimant's testimony as to subjective symptoms merely because they are unsupported by objective evidence. Id. at 343. Unless there is affirmative evidence showing that the claimant is malingering, the ALJ's reasons for rejecting the claimant's testimony must be "clear and convincing." Valentine v. Commissioner Social Security Admin. , 574 F.3d 685, 693 (9th Cir. 2009).

At the hearing, Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to tremors and pain in her hands and legs as well as numbness in her hands and fingers associated with multiple sclerosis. (AR 12-13; AR 38). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's "medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause some of the alleged symptoms, however the claimant's testimony concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effect of these symptoms are not credible to the extent they are inconsistent with the above medical functional capacity assessment." (AR14).

The ALJ provided the following reasons for finding Plaintiff not credible: (1) Plaintiff's somewhat normal level of daily activity and interactions; (2) Plaintiff's routine, conservative, and non-emergency treatment; (3) and the objective medical and diagnostic findings since the alleged onset date. (AR 13-16).

In determining Plaintiff's credibility, the first factor the ALJ considered was Plaintiff's report of daily activities. The Plaintiff testified to living in a two-story home with her twelve-year old son. (AR36-37). She reads a book for a couple hours a day. (AR 41). She claimed difficulties with personal care. (AR 43). She stated that she is often visited with her niece and together they "do laundry or clean house or just average day stuff, in between... the kids going to school and house." (AR 40). She stated that she sometimes went out to eat. (AR 42). She attends church on occasion, cooking sometimes, and grocery shopping. (AR 13, 40-44).

Although Plaintiff has carried on certain daily activities, such as grocery shopping, driving a car, or limited walking for exercise, these do not necessarily detract from her credibility as to her overall disability. Vertigan v. Halter , 260 F.3d 1044, 1050 (9th Cir. 2001). Nevertheless, they may be grounds for discrediting the claimant's testimony to the extent that they contradict ...

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