United States District Court, C.D. California
For Algeretta Clark, Plaintiff: Bill LaTour, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Bill LaTour, Colton, CA.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Assistant U.S. Attorney LA-CV, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of U.S. Attorney, Civil Division, Los Angeles, CA; Assistant U.S. Attorney LA-SSA, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel for Social Security Adm., San Francisco, CA; Cynthia B De Nardi, SAUSA - Office of the U.S. Attorney, Office of the General Counsel Region IX, San Francisco, CA.
ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER
DAVID T. BRISTOW, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff filed a Complaint (" Complaint") on January 24, 2014, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. In accordance with the Magistrate Judge's Case Management Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (" Jt. Stip.") on September 25, 2014. Thus, this matter now is ready for decision.
1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ") properly evaluated plaintiff's credibility. (Jt. Stip. 3-15.)
2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed the medical evidence. (Jt. Stip. 15-18.)
3. Whether the ALJ properly determined plaintiff's residual functional capacity (" RFC") and posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert (" VE"). (Jt. Stip. 18-22.)
I. Reversal is not warranted based on the ALJ's assessment of plaintiff's credibility.
Plaintiff complains that " [w]hile the ALJ briefly summarized plaintiff's testimony at her administrative hearing, the ALJ does not indicate which specific statements made by plaintiff that she accepted or rejected nor does the ALJ provide clear and convincing reason to reject plaintiff's testimony." (Jt. Stip. 4.) Plaintiff asserts the " ALJ's credibility findings are improper." (Id.)
Where the claimant has produced objective medical evidence of an impairment or impairments which could reasonably be expected to produce some degree of pain and/or other symptoms, and the record is devoid of any affirmative evidence of malingering, the ALJ may reject the claimant's testimony regarding the severity of the claimant's pain and/or other symptoms only if the ALJ makes specific findings stating clear and convincing reasons for doing so. See Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1281-82 (9th Cir. 1996); Dodrill v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 915, 918 (9th Cir. 1993); Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 343 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc); see also Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035-36 (9th Cir. 2007). 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) (as amended);
see also Dodrill, 12 F.3d at 918. Further, a credibility finding must be " sufficiently specific to permit the court to conclude that the ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit [the] claimant's testimony." Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 958 (9th Cir. 2002). Factors that may be considered include: (1) The claimant's reputation for truthfulness; (2) inconsistencies in testimony or between testimony and conduct; (3) the claimant's daily activities; (4) an unexplained, or inadequately explained, failure to seek treatment or follow a prescribed course of treatment; and (5) testimony from physicians concerning the nature, severity, and effect of the symptoms of which the claimant complains. Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Thomas, 278 F.3d at 958-59.
At the administrative hearing, held on August 1, 2012, plaintiff testified that she is unable to work because she is " depressed." (AR 34, AR 40-41.) She reported that she " can't concentrate, " suffers from paranoia, and " sometimes . . . see[s] things or . . .hear[s] things." (AR 41, AR 45, AR 47.) Plaintiff testified that medication has helped her mental health symptoms become a " little better." (AR 50.) With respect to her physical impairments, plaintiff reported that she suffers from pain in her lower back, feet, and ankles. (AR 41.) However, plaintiff also stated that her prescription medication Tramadol helps with the pain. (AR 43.) Plaintiff indicated that she broke both her ankles in 1994 after jumping out of a " three-story window" while " trying to escape being harmed." (AR 43-44.) Plaintiff testified that when she is at home, she is " in [her] bed all day." (AR 50.)
The ALJ declined to " fully credit [plaintiff's] testimony and allegations." (AR 18.) The Court concludes the ALJ provided legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the alleged ...