United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge
Leigh Bentley (“Plaintiff”) challenges the Social
Security Commissioner's decision denying her application
for disability benefits. Two issues are presented for
1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility (see
Corrected Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”) at
10-12, 15-16); and
2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed the consultative
examining physician's opinion (see id. at 2-7,
Court addresses Plaintiff's contentions below, and finds
that reversal is not warranted.
The ALJ Provided Clear and Convincing Reasons for
Discounting Plaintiff's Credibility, and Any Error Was
contends that the ALJ improperly assessed her
credibility. (See Joint Stip. at 10-12,
rule, an ALJ can reject a claimant's subjective
complaints by “expressing clear and convincing reasons
for doing so.” Benton ex rel. Benton v.
Barnhart, 331 F.3d 1030, 1040 (9th Cir. 2003).
“General findings are insufficient; rather, the ALJ
must identify what testimony is not credible and what
evidence undermines a claimant's complaints.”
Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 493 (9th Cir.
2015) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
the ALJ provided at least three valid reasons for discounting
Plaintiff's treatment history was intermittent, and she
had no recent mental health care. (Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 27); see Marsh v. Colvin, 792
F.3d 1170, 1173 n.2 (9th Cir. 2015) (ALJ properly considered
treatment gap in assessing claimant's credibility);
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 2005)
(ALJ properly relied on three- to four- month treatment gap
in partially discrediting claimant's testimony).
Plaintiff did not follow through with recommendations from
the Department of Public Social Services for further
treatment. (AR at 27, 461-63); see Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 113-14 (9th Cir. 2012) (ALJ did
not err by discounting testimony based on failure to follow
prescribed treatment, including advice to seek counseling);
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1530(a), 416.930(a) (claimant must
“follow treatment prescribed by [her] physician if this
treatment can restore [her] ability to work”).
Plaintiff was uncooperative with the minimal treatment she
received from Dr. Pamela Pine. (AR at 27, 465 (Dr. Pine's
notation that she saw Plaintiff only four times in 2003, and
that she refused to fill out paperwork), 467); Garcia v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 587 F. App'x 367, 370 (9th
Cir. 2014) (credibility determination supported by
substantial evidence in part because claimant was
uncooperative with medical professionals and unwilling to
comply with prescribed treatment).
Court, however, agrees with Plaintiff that the ALJ improperly
relied on her meager activities of daily living in
discounting her testimony. (Joint Stip. at 11-12, 16; AR at
27); see Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir.
2007) (ALJ must make “specific findings related to [the
daily] activities and their transferability to conclude that
a claimant's daily activities warrant an adverse
credibility determination”); Vertigan v.
Halter, 260 F.3d 1044, 1049-50 (9th Cir. 2001) (the mere
fact that claimant “carried on certain daily
activities, such as grocery shopping, driving a car, or
limited walking or exercise, does not in any way
detract” from credibility as to overall disability).
any such error is harmless in light of the other valid
reasons for rejecting the testimony.See Carmickle v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1162 (9th
Cir. 2008) (when ALJ provides specific reasons for
discounting claimant's credibility, decision may be
upheld even if certain reasons were invalid as long as
“remaining reasoning and ultimate credibility
determination” were supported by substantial evidence
(emphasis omitted)); Strutz v. Colvin, 2015 WL
4727459, at ...