United States District Court, E.D. California
BRITTANY S.M. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Pursuant to
the written consent of all parties, this case is before the
undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes,
including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18) and defendant's
cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21).
Tracy De'anne Williams applied for social security
benefits on March 15, 2011. In the application, claimant
claims that disability began on July 15, 2010. Claimant's
claim was initially denied. Following denial of
reconsideration, claimant requested an administrative
hearing, which was held on April 15, 2014, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Nancy Lisewski.
In a May 1, 2014, decision, the ALJ concluded that claimant
was not disabled based on the following relevant findings:
1. The claimant had the following severe impairment(s):
diabetes with neuropathy and ulcerations, and obesity;
2. The claimant did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment
listed in the regulations;
3. The claimant had the following residual functional
capacity: the claimant was able to perform sedentary work;
she was limited to occasional postural changes, including
climbing of ramps and stairs, stooping, crouching, kneeling,
and crawling; she was able to frequently balance, and would
have had to avoid heights and hazards; and
4. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, residual functional capacity, and vocational
expert testimony, the claimant was able to perform her past
relevant work as a check cashier.
the Appeals Council declined review on February 16, 2016,
this appeal followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to
determine whether it is: (1) based on proper legal standards;
and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097
(9th Cir. 1999). “Substantial evidence” is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See
Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It
is “. . . such evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The
record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be
considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782
F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler,
760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm
the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a
specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v.
Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial
evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is
conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the
finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v.
Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987).
Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, one of which supports the
Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed,
see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal
standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see
Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).
argues that the ALJ improperly rejected claimant's
testimony as not credible. The Commissioner determines
whether a disability applicant is credible, and the court
defers to the Commissioner's discretion if the
Commissioner used the proper process and provided proper
reasons. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 522 (9th
Cir. 1996). An explicit credibility finding must be supported
by specific, cogent reasons. See Rashad v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1229, 1231 (9th Cir. 1990). General findings are
insufficient. See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834
(9th Cir. 1995). Rather, the Commissioner must identify what
testimony is not credible and what evidence undermines the
testimony. See id. Moreover, unless there is
affirmative evidence in the record of malingering, the
Commissioner's reasons for rejecting testimony as not
credible must be “clear and convincing.” See
id.; see also Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533
F.3d 1155, 1160 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Lingenfelter v
Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1936 (9th Cir. 2007), and
Gregor v. Barnhart, 464 F.3d 968, 972 (9th Cir.
there is objective medical evidence of an underlying
impairment, the Commissioner may not discredit a
claimant's testimony as to the severity of symptoms
merely because they are unsupported by objective medical
evidence. See Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341,