United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of the denial of
his claim for social security disability benefits. On appeal,
Plaintiff raises four claims of error: 1) that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to give
sufficient reasons to not fully credit Plaintiff's
symptom testimony, 2) that the ALJ failed to give sufficient
reasons to not give full weight to the opinions of two of
Plaintiff's treating physicians (Dr. Reinhart and Dr.
Feinstein), 3) that the opinion of the ALJ lacks sufficient
specificity; and 4) the ALJ erred in denying Plaintiff's
request for subpoenas as to certain examining or
non-examining physicians. The Court will address each claim
of error in turn.
Review of ALJ Decision
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.
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). On the other hand, the Court “may not
affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Id. (quotation and citation
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).
Claims of Error on Appeal
Plaintiff's Symptom Testimony
parties agree that (under Ninth Circuit precedent), because
the ALJ did not find evidence of malingering, the ALJ was
required to give clear and convincing reasons to not credit
Plaintiff's symptom testimony. (Doc. 25 at 11 (albeit
arguing that Ninth Circuit precedent is inconsistent with
federal law); Doc. 18 at 22). The ALJ dedicated multiple
pages of the opinion to why he did not find Plaintiffs
symptom testimony credible, linking particular testimony to
particular discrediting other evidence of record. On appeal,
Plaintiff acknowledges that the ALJ “advanced several
rationales for finding symptom testimony not credible,
” but nonetheless argues that none of the rationales
are sufficient to be clear and convincing. (Doc. 18 at 23).
of example, in one paragraph of his opinion, the ALJ found
the following: Claimant testified he had back pain, which was
always present, and neck pain that woke him up at night, and
that on a typical day he lied down 8 to 16 times per day
adding up to a couple of hours per day. (Doc. 12-3 at
The ALJ found this testimony inconsistent with third-party
testimony, Claimant's own testimony, and the medical
• Claimant's mother's testimony that claimant
could prepare his own meals, perform chores (like cleaning
his room and bathroom), taking out the garbage, loading and
unloading the dishwasher, loading the laundry, and picking up
after the dog.
• Claimant's mother's testimony that claimant
had no issues with personal care.
• Claimant's testimony that he runs errands,
including grocery shopping, shopping with his father, and