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Shock v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 10, 2017

NATASHA SHOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN E. SCOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Natasha Shock (“Plaintiff”) appeals the final decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying her application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). For the reasons discussed below, the ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on December 6, 2012, alleging disability commencing October 27, 2007. Administrative Record (“AR”) 193-200. An ALJ conducted a hearing on January 27, 2015, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, appeared and testified. AR 37-56. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged disability onset date to December 6, 2012. AR 40.

         On May 1, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. AR 18-36. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: depression, anxiety, greater trochanteric bursitis of the hips, and an ankle sprain. AR 24. Notwithstanding her impairments, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with the following additional limitations: she can lift and/or carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; she can sit, stand, and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday; she can frequently crouch and crawl, and she can perform unskilled work with frequent coworker and public contact. AR 26. Based on this RFC and the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not return to her past relevant work as a key holder, retail sales clerk, or check cashier, but that she could find work as a routing clerk, bagger, or sewing machine operator. AR 30-32. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled. AR 32.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Comm'r of SSA, 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court “must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). “If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, ” the reviewing court “may not substitute its judgment” for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 720-21.

         In determining a claimant's RFC, the ALJ should consider those limitations for which there is support in the record, but the ALJ need not consider properly rejected evidence of subjective complaints. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1217 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Preparing a function-by-function analysis for medical conditions or impairments that the ALJ found neither credible nor supported by the record is unnecessary.”); Batson v. Comm'r of SSA, 359 F.3d 1190, 1197 (9th Cir. 2004) (“The ALJ was not required to incorporate evidence from the opinions of Batson's treating physicians, which were permissibly discounted.”).

         “A decision of the ALJ will not be reversed for errors that are harmless.” Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). Generally, an error is harmless if it either “occurred during a procedure or step the ALJ was not required to perform, ” or if it “was inconsequential to the ultimate non-disability determination.” Stout v. Comm'r of SSA, 454 F.3d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir. 2006).

         III. ISSUES PRESENTED

         Plaintiff raises one claim of error: that the ALJ did not properly consider Plaintiff's testimony. Joint Stipulation (“JS”) at 3.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ properly discounted Plaintiff's subjective pain testimony.

         1. Applicable Law.

         An ALJ's assessment of symptom severity and claimant credibility is entitled to “great weight.” See Weetman v. Sullivan, 877 F.2d 20, 22 (9th Cir.

         1989); Nyman v. Heckler, 779 F.2d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 1986). “[T]he ALJ is not required to believe every allegation of disabling pain, or else disability benefits would be available for the asking, a result plainly contrary to 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A).” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In evaluating a claimant's subjective symptom testimony, the ALJ engages in a two-step analysis. Lingerfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035-36. “First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has presented objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment [that] could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged.” Id. at 1036. If so, the ALJ may not reject claimant's testimony ‚Äúsimply because there is no showing that ...


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