United States District Court, E.D. California
ANGELA S. REYNOLDS, 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. 16) and defendant's
cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17).
applied for social security benefits on October 11, 2011. In
the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on
April 2, 2010. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied.
Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, which was held on February 4, 2014,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Sharon L.
Madsen. In a April 18, 2014, decision, the ALJ concluded that
plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant
claimant has the following severe impairment(s): cervical
spondylosis and asthma;
claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment
listed in the regulations;
claimant has the following residual functional capacity: the
claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for 6 to 8 hours in an
8-hour workday, and sit for 6 to 8 hours in an 8-hour
workday; she can occasionally climb, crawl, and reach
overhead; she can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and
crouch, she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she
must avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, gases, and fumes;
Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, residual functional capacity, and vocational
expert testimony, the claimant is capable of performing past
relevant work as a hotel clerk, reservation clerk, and
medical records clerk.
the Appeals Council declined review on March 15, 2016, this
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 her 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. 2006)).
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,