United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. MCCORMICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Denise Z. (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the final
decision of the Social Security Commissioner denying her
applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter is
remanded for further proceedings.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on September 2, 2014,
alleging disability beginning November 11, 2011. See
Dkt. 16, Administrative Record (“AR”) 170-82.
Plaintiff's initial application was denied on February 5,
2015. See AR 106-10. Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an ALJ on March 5, 2015. See AR 116-17.
Plaintiff attended the hearing on August 16, 2016, AR 31, and
the ALJ denied her claim. AR 12-13. The Appeals Council
declined review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1. This action
parties dispute whether the ALJ: (1) properly determined
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”); (2) properly rejected the medical
opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; and (3)
properly discounted Plaintiff's testimony about her
limitations. See Joint Stipulation (Dkt. 29;
“JS”) at 4. The Court will address the
parties' arguments in a different order.
Plaintiff's Symptom Testimony
Court engages in a two-step analysis to review the ALJ's
evaluation of a claimant's symptom testimony.
“First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has
presented objective medical evidence of an underlying
impairment which could reasonably be expected to produce the
pain or other symptoms alleged.” Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1014 (9th Cir 2014) (citation
omitted). “If the claimant satisfies the first step of
this analysis, and there is no evidence of malingering, the
ALJ can reject the claimant's testimony about the
severity of her symptoms only by offering specific, clear and
convincing reasons for doing so.” Id. at
1014-15 (citation omitted).
testified about a range of symptoms caused by her
impairments. On an average day, the pain she feels is about a
five and on some days her pain is a ten, bad enough she stays
in bed or goes to the emergency room. See AR 55-57.
On an average day, she can sit for twenty minutes, stand for
twenty-five minutes, walk half a block, and lift ten pounds.
See AR 58. She has trouble both falling asleep and
staying asleep, taking on average three hours a night to fall
asleep and waking up five times a night. See AR 57.
She averages five hours of restful sleep a night.
See AR 57. Finally, due to side effects from her
medication, Plaintiff gets drowsy and has blurred vision.
See AR 58.
identified three reasons for discounting Plaintiff's
testimony. First, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff's
testimony was not entirely consistent with the medical
evidence. See AR 21. The ALJ also noted that
Plaintiff's activities of daily living were not
consistent with her testimony. See id. Finally, the
ALJ noted that Plaintiff had not received any recent
treatment for some of the impairments she described as
causing her symptoms. See id.
the objective medical evidence, the ALJ reviewed
Plaintiff's MRI results and the consulting examiner's
findings about Plaintiff's back condition. See
AR 20. The ALJ also reviewed the examiner's findings
about Plaintiff's wrist limitations related to her
history of carpal tunnel syndrome. See id. These
findings support the ALJ's conclusion that
Plaintiff's medical evidence was not consistent with her
testimony. And while a lack of objective medical evidence may
not be the sole reason for discounting a ...