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Paula J. R. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 11, 2019

PAULA J.R., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES F. EICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff filed a complaint on June 14, 2019, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on July 31, 2019. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on November 6, 2019. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on December 6, 2019. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; “Order, ” filed June 17, 2019.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a former administrative assistant, asserted disability since September 20, 2013, based on a host of alleged impairments (Administrative Record (“A.R.”) 68, 229, 267). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) examined the medical record and heard testimony from Plaintiff at two hearings (A.R. 12-226, 229-1339).

         In her testimony, Plaintiff alleged pain and other subjective symptoms of disabling severity (A.R. 40-42, 57-63). She claimed she suffers “head to toe” pain “all the time, ” which she rated as a ten on a pain severity scale of one to ten (A.R. 57). Plaintiff also claimed she stays in bed “all day, ” uses a walker when out of bed and needs help even to shower (A.R. 40-41).

         In written statements, Plaintiff similarly alleged continuous, extraordinary “complete body pain” (A.R. 1179-81). According to Plaintiff, the “sensation” of her pain is accurately described as “aching, ” “cramping, ” “numbing, ” “stinging, ” “burning, ” “heavy, ” “sharp, ” “tight, ” “cold, ” “hot, ” “shooting” and “tingling” (A.R. 1180). According to Plaintiff, all of the following factors increase her pain: “weather changes, ” “fatigue, ” “emotional stress, ” “tension, ” “distraction (T.V., etc.), ” “bowel/bladder function, ” “coughing or sneezing, ” “heat, ” “cold, ” “massage, ” “sleep or rest, ” “medication” and “alcohol” (A.R. 1181).

         In the most recent administrative decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffers from certain severe impairments, including degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia (A.R. 18). However, the ALJ also found that Plaintiff never lost the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work, including Plaintiff's past relevant work (A.R. 19-25).

         The ALJ discounted Plaintiff's subjective allegations regarding her alleged symptomatology (A.R. 20-22). The ALJ expressly reasoned that Plaintiff's subjective allegations were: (1) inconsistent with other statements by Plaintiff reflected in the record; (2) inconsistent with the observations of third parties reflected in the record; (3) unsupported by the objective medical evidence contained in the record; (4) belied by the conservative nature of the treatment received by Plaintiff; and (5) inconsistent with Plaintiff's lack of muscle atrophy (id.). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Brewes v. Commissioner, 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see also Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006).

If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [administrative] conclusion.

Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations and quotations ...


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