Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Caldwell v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 26, 2016

TROSALIND L. CALDWELL Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying plaintiff’s application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act (“Act”).[1] In her motion for summary judgment, plaintiff principally contends that the Commissioner erred by finding that plaintiff was not disabled from October 2, 2009, her alleged disability onset date, through the date of the final administrative decision. (ECF No. 19.) The Commissioner filed an opposition to plaintiff’s motion and a cross-motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 20.) Thereafter, plaintiff filed a reply brief. (ECF No. 21.)

         After carefully considering the parties’ written briefing, the court’s record, and the applicable law, the court DENIES plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner’s cross-motion for summary judgment, and AFFIRMS the final decision of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on August 3, 1962, has a high school education, is able to communicate in English, and previously worked primarily in retail-type positions. (Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 35, 244, 316, 318.)[2] In January 2012, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that her disability began on October 2, 2009, and that she was disabled primarily due to posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), a back injury, depression, diabetes, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and hepatitis C. (AT 24, 106-07, 210, 212, 317.) After plaintiff’s application was denied initially and on reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which took place on November 20, 2013, and at which plaintiff, represented by an attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. (AT 43-77.) The ALJ subsequently issued a decision dated February 21, 2014, determining that plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from October 2, 2009, plaintiff’s alleged disability onset date, through the date of the ALJ’s decision. (AT 24-37.) The ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review on April 1, 2015. (AT 1-5.) Plaintiff then filed this action in federal district court on May 8, 2015, to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. ISSUES PRESENTED

         On appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) whether the ALJ erroneously discounted the opinion of plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist; and (2) whether the ALJ improperly evaluated the credibility of plaintiff and her daughter.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The court reviews the Commissioner’s decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). “The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.” Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). “The court will uphold the ALJ’s conclusion when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation.” Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary of the ALJ’s Findings

         The ALJ evaluated plaintiff’s entitlement to DIB and SSI pursuant to the Commissioner’s standard five-step analytical framework.[3] As an initial matter, the ALJ determined that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act for purposes of DIB through June 30, 2014. (AT 26.) At the first step, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 2, 2009, plaintiff’s alleged disability onset date. (Id.) At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: morbid obesity, lumbosacral strain, an affective disorder, asthma, and a history of an anxiety-related disorder. (Id.) However, at step three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AT 27.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that she can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, and hazards. The claimant retains the abilities to engage in simple, repetitive tasks with occasional contact with supervisors, co-workers, and the public.

(AT 30.)

         At step four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (AT 35.) However, at step five, the ALJ found that, in light of plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, and based on the VE’s testimony, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform. (AT 35-36.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from October 2, 2009, through the date of the ALJ’s decision. (AT 36.)

         B. Plaintiff’s Substantive Challenges to the Commissioner’s Determinations Whether the ALJ erroneously discounted the opinion of plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist[4]

         The weight given to medical opinions depends in part on whether they are proffered by treating, examining, or non-examining professionals. Holohan v. Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1201-02 (9th Cir. 2001); Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995). Generally speaking, a treating physician’s opinion carries more weight than an examining physician’s opinion, and an examining physician’s opinion carries more weight than a non-examining physician’s opinion. Holohan, 246 F.3d at 1202.

         To evaluate whether an ALJ properly rejected a medical opinion, in addition to considering its source, the court considers whether (1) contradictory opinions are in the record; and (2) clinical findings support the opinions. An ALJ may reject an uncontradicted opinion of a treating or examining medical professional only for “clear and convincing” reasons. Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31. In contrast, a contradicted opinion ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.