United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the denial of
her deceased husband's claim for social security
disability benefits. Plaintiff alleges two claims of error on
appeal: 1) the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) did not
properly discredit the claimant's subjective symptom
testimony; and 2) the ALJ did not properly discredit certain
treating medical opinions. With respect to the second claim
of error, Plaintiff identifies four medical sources that
Plaintiff claims the ALJ did not properly discredit: 1) Dr.
Jensen; 2) Dr. Goodell; 3) Dr. Geary; and 4) Nurse Grissom.
Plaintiff argues that if the claimant's self-reported
symptoms and the four identified medical opinions had all
been credited, claimant would have been found disabled.
ALJ's decision to deny benefits will be overturned
“only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or
is based on legal error.” Magallanes v. Bowen,
881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989) (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence” means more than a mere
scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998).
inquiry here is whether the record, read as a whole, yields
such evidence as would allow a reasonable mind to accept the
conclusions reached by the ALJ.” Gallant v.
Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1453 (9th Cir. 1984) (citation
omitted). In determining whether there is substantial
evidence to support a decision, the Court considers the
record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports
the ALJ's conclusions and the evidence that detracts from
the ALJ's conclusions. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720.
“Where evidence is susceptible of more than one
rational interpretation, it is the ALJ's conclusion which
must be upheld; and in reaching his findings, the ALJ is
entitled to draw inferences logically flowing from the
evidence.” Gallant, 753 F.2d at 1453
(citations omitted); see Batson v. Comm'r of the Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is because “[t]he trier of fact and not the reviewing
court must resolve conflicts in the evidence, and if the
evidence can support either outcome, the court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.”
Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir.
1992); see also Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d 180, 184
(9th Cir. 1990).
is responsible for resolving conflicts in medical testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).
Thus, if on the whole record before the Court, substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, the Court must
affirm it. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(2012). On the other hand, the Court “may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007) (quotation and citation omitted).
the Court is not charged with reviewing the evidence and
making its own judgment as to whether Plaintiff is or is not
disabled. Rather, the Court's inquiry is constrained to
the reasons asserted by the ALJ and the evidence relied on in
support of those reasons. See Connett v. Barnhart,
340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
Claimant's Reported Symptoms
ALJ's Findings Regarding Claimant's Reported
an ALJ makes a finding of malingering based on affirmative
evidence thereof, ” the ALJ may only find the claimant
not credible by making specific findings supported by the
record that provide clear and convincing reasons to explain
her credibility evaluation. Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 883 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing
Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1283-84 (9th Cir.
1996)). In this case, both parties agree that the ALJ made no
finding of malingering; and, therefore, was required to give
clear and convincing reasons to reject the claimant's
testimony about the severity of his symptoms. (Doc. 18 at 7;
Doc. 17 at 23).
rendering a credibility determination, the ALJ may consider
several factors, including: “(1) ordinary techniques of
credibility evaluation, such as the claimant's reputation
for lying, prior inconsistent statements concerning the
symptoms, and other testimony by the claimant that appears
less than candid; (2) unexplained or inadequately explained
failure to seek treatment or to follow a prescribed course of
treatment; and (3) the claimant's daily
activities.” Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Smolen, 80 F.3d
at 1284). If the ALJ relies on these factors and his reliance
is supported by substantial evidence, the Court “may
not engage in second-guessing.” Id. (quoting
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 958-59 (9th Cir.
case, the ALJ found the “claimant's statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limited effects of
these symptoms are not entirely credible….” Doc.
11-3 at 40. The ALJ gave many reasons why the ALJ
found the claimant's testimony to be less than credible.
the ALJ found that claimant's statements were
inconsistent with his residual functional capacity.
Id. The Court finds this finding is supported by the
the ALJ found claimant had minimal treatment and that the
claimant received only “routine, conservative, and
non-emergency” treatment. Id. at 41. Plaintiff
disputes this finding arguing that he did have an emergency
in patient hospitalization. Doc. 17 at 25. The ALJ stated,
“…claimant reported having been hospitalized for
psychiatric treatment; however, there are no treatment
records from this incident.” Doc. 11-3 at 41. Upon this
Court's review, it appears that the records of this