United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff Ronald Arthur Holliday's
appeal of the Social Security Administration's decision
to deny benefits. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth below,
the Court affirms the decision.
November 27, 2012, Ronald Arthur Holliday applied for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2010.
(Tr. 21.) Holliday's claim was denied on July 5, 2013.
(Tr. 79-96.) He then appealed to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 21.) A hearing was initially held
on July 1, 2014, but postponed until November 4, 2014, so
that Holliday could obtain counsel. (Tr. 39-76.)
evaluating whether Holliday was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. At step one, the ALJ determined that
Holliday had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 23.) At step two, the ALJ
determined that Holliday suffered from severe impairments of
“(1) Hypertension; (2) Status post cerebral vascular
accident (CVA) and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs); (3)
Cardiomyopathy; (4) Seizure disorder; and (5) Degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine.” (Id.) At
step three, the ALJ determined that none of these
impairments, either alone or in combination, met or equaled
any of the Social Security Administration's listed
impairments. (Tr. 24.)
then made the following determination of Holliday's
residual functional capacity
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except that the claimant can occasionally bend,
squat, and kneel; cannot climb ladders or scaffolds; cannot
work in hazardous work areas; cannot work in temperature
extremes; and cannot perform complex tasks, such that he is
limited to work with a svp of 2 or less.
25.) At step four, the ALJ found that the “demands of
the claimant's past relevant work exceed the residual
functional capacity.” (Tr. 28-29.) The ALJ therefore
proceeded to step five.
began his step five analysis by noting that “[p]rior to
the established disability onset date, the claimant was a
younger individual age 18-49 [but on] November 21, 2013, the
claimant's age category changed to an individual of
advanced age.” (Tr. 29.) Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that prior to November 21, 2013, “there were
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant could have performed, ” but
that there were no such jobs after that point. (Tr. 29-30.) The
ALJ therefore determined that Holliday was not disabled
through December 31, 2012-the date last insured-and was
therefore ineligible for disability benefits, but that he was
eligible for supplemental security income. (Tr. 31.)
appealed to the Appeals Council. (Tr. 15.) The Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision on
disability benefits, (Tr. 2-5), and reversed the ALJ's
decision on supplemental security income, (Tr.
6-12). Holliday filed the complaint underlying
this action on September 12, 2016, seeking this Court's
review of the Social Security Administration's denial of
benefits. (Doc. 1.)
Standard of Review
reviewing federal court need only address the issues raised
by the claimant in the appeal from the ALJ's decision.
See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir.
2001). A federal court may set aside a denial of disability
benefits only if that denial is either unsupported by
substantial evidence or based on legal error. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). “When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to
more than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the
ALJ's conclusion.” Batson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is so because “[t]he [ALJ] and not the reviewing court
must resolve conflicts in 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) (citations
omitted). However, the Court “must consider the entire
record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a
‘specific quantum of supporting evidence.'”
Id. (citing Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498,
501 (9th Cir. 1989)). Nor may the Court “affirm the
ALJ's . . . decision based on evidence that the ALJ did
not discuss.” Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d
871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
argues that: (1) the ALJ's RFC is not supported by
substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ erred in determining that
Holliday was not fully credible; (3) the ALJ improperly
discounted the testimony of Holliday's wife; and (4) the
ALJ erred in giving little weight to a Functional Capacity
The RFC Formulation
asserts that the ALJ ignored substantial record evidence of
impairments in formulating the Holliday's RFC. In part,
Holliday cites as error the ALJ's treatment of the
testimony of Holliday and his wife; whether the ALJ was
correct in finding their testimony less than fully credible
will be discussed in subsequent sections. But Holliday also
asserts that the ALJ failed to consider the combined effect
of Holliday's impairments on his ability to work.
Specifically, he alleges that the ALJ failed to consider the
effect of Holliday's seizures, TIAs, fatigue and
initial matter, the ALJ did discuss the effects of these
impairments, (Tr. 26- 27), and included limitations based on
his interpretation of the medical record as a whole. The ALJ
recognized that Holliday suffered from “some degree of
weakness and fatigue” that limited his ability to lift
and carry objects, and additionally “include[d] a
restriction as to working in hazardous areas due to the
possibility of a seizure.” (Tr. 27.) He further
recognized “ischemic changes of the brain that would
reasonably limit the claimant's ability to perform basic
work activities” and accordingly “conclude[d]
that the claimant is unable to perform complex tasks, and is
therefore limited to work with an svp of 2 or less.”
while Holliday asserts that these impairments affected him
more severely, the ALJ's interpretation is a reasonable
interpretation of the evidence in the record. The ALJ noted
that throughout 2010 and 2011, while Holliday suffered from
hypertension, his exam findings revealed no disabling
symptoms of the hypertension.(Tr. 27, 473, 475, 477, 479, 480,
788, 793, 794, 837, 841.) Nor does Holliday point to any such
symptoms. Holliday cites a function report describing his
fatigue, (Doc. 20 at 12), but this function report makes no
mention of hypertension at all, (Tr. 240-47). Holliday
further asserts in his reply brief that “[h]ypertension
can cause multiple effects on different areas of the
body.” (Doc. 22 at 2.) But that general proposition
does not mean that Holliday suffered from any such effects.
the seizures, TIAs and fatigue, the ALJ reasonably
interpreted the medical evidence of record to indicate that
Holliday suffered from “some degree of weakness and
fatigue” but not to the extent Holliday alleged. He
noted a July 2010 consultative exam that was “entirely
normal.” (Tr. 27, 512-16.) The notes of that
examination report that Holliday was “able to shower
for himself” and “perform housework and yardwork,
just being mindful of his left upper extremity
weakness.” (Tr. 512.) The ALJ further noted that while
Holliday was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and prescribed
medication, he never went to the emergency room for seizures
or complained of frequent seizures; and while he alleged
having several TIAs a month in July 2012, (Tr. 785), there
was no support in the records for the disabling symptoms
Holliday alleged. (Tr. 27.)
thus reasonably interpreted the evidence of the medical
records in formulating the RFC. Holliday's assertion that
the RFC limitations should have included the limitations to
which Holliday and his wife testified will be discussed in
the following sections.