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Mia A. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

December 19, 2019

MIA A., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Mia A. (“Plaintiff”) appeals from Social Security Commissioner's final decision rejecting her application for Social Security disability insurance benefits (“DIB”).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed with prejudice.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on March 24, 2017, alleging disability beginning on December 1, 2016. See Administrative Record (“AR”) 15. After a hearing in August 2018, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine status post cervical fusion surgery, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, mild degenerative joint disease of the bilateral hips, history of thyroid cancer, major depressive disorder, and cannabis abuse. See AR 17. The ALJ also concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments. See id. The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) limited her to light work with certain additional limitations. See AR 19. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled because although she could not return to her past work, there was work available in the national economy which she could do despite her limitations. See AR 24-25. This action followed. See Dkt. 1.

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         The parties dispute whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony. See Dkt. 18, Joint Submission (“JS”) at 3.

         A. Applicable Law

         The Court engages in a two-step analysis to review the ALJ's evaluation of Plaintiff's symptom testimony. See Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 678 (9th Cir. 2017). First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has presented objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the symptoms alleged. See id. If the claimant satisfies this first step, and there is no evidence of malingering, the ALJ can reject the claimant's testimony about the severity of symptoms only by offering specific, clear and convincing reasons for doing so. See id. “[O]nce the claimant produces objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment, an adjudicator may not reject a claimant's subjective complaints based solely on a lack of objective medical evidence to fully corroborate the alleged severity of pain.” Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 345 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc).

         B. Analysis

         At the 2018 hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that she takes about an hour to get out of bed, reads to her children, and assists her husband with minor chores. See AR 35. She testified that she does laundry but does not do any chores that involves lifting or exertion. See id. She testified that she can only stand 20 minutes at a time and sits 60 percent of the day. See AR 36.

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could be reasonably expected to produce Plaintiff's alleged symptoms, but found Plaintiff's testimony about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms were inconsistent with “medical evidence and other evidence in the record for the reasons explained in this decision.” AR 20. The ALJ found that the medical evidence, lack of compliance with her prescribed treatment, and evidence of Plaintiff's medical improvement did not support Plaintiff's testimony about her limitations. See id. The Commissioner argues the ALJ also found that Plaintiff's daily activities did not support Plaintiff's testimony about her limitations. See JS at 12.

         The ALJ properly weighed the medical evidence and found that the evidence was not consistent with Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony. “Although lack of medical evidence cannot form the sole basis for discounting pain testimony, it is a factor that the ALJ can consider in his ...


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