United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilfeorg Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's appeal of Defendant's
denial of her claim for social security disability benefits.
Plaintiff argues that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in denying her claim for benefits
in four ways: 1) the ALJ failed to give adequate reasons for
rejecting the opinion of Plaintiff's treating
neurologist, Dr. Patterson; 2) the ALJ posed the wrong
question to the vocational expert (“VE”); 3) the
examining and non-examining physicians, upon whose opinions
the ALJ relied, did not have relevant medical records; and 4)
the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons for
rejecting Plaintiff's testimony regarding her symptoms
and limitations. (Doc. 9 at 1). The Court will address each
of these claims of error below.
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).
Issues on Appeal
some of the errors on appeal argued by Plaintiff build on
each other, the Court will not take them in the order
presented by Plaintiff.
Whether the Examining and Non-examining Physicians had
Substantial Evidence to Consider in Forming their
dedicates one sentence of her brief to this argument, which
is “The ALJ gave the opinions of Dr. Boatman and Bargan
significant weight, their opinions cannot constitute
substantial evidence to support the Decision because they did
not have any treatment evidence to consider.” (Doc. 9
at 23). Plaintiff cites “fn 2, 20” to support
the Court cannot decipher Plaintiff's citation. Footnote
2 of Plaintiff's brief does not reference this topic. The
brief does not have a footnote 20. The ALJ's opinion has
no footnotes. Thus, Plaintiff has made an argument with no
factual or legal support.
Court has reviewed the ALJ's decision, which states
“Significant weight is further afforded to the January
2013 and July 2013 physical assessments of State disability
physicians, Dr. Bargan and Dr. Boatman who, after review of
the medical record, assessed the claimant capable
of….” (Doc. 8-3 at 31). The ALJ then listed the
doctor's conclusions about claimant's ability to work
in light of “the medical record as a whole.”
Id. The Court has no reason to believe the ALJ or
the doctors are lying when the record states that they
reviewed the entire medical record. Further, Plaintiff is
claiming she has been disabled since April of 2008, so by the
2013 assessments, there was a medical record to review. The
Court is unclear as to the exact “treatment
evidence” that Plaintiff now complains the doctors did
not have the benefit of; however, the Court finds that given
Plaintiff's alleged onset date of 2008, assessments in
2013 are adequate to review her medical record and constitute
substantial evidence. Accordingly, the ALJ did not commit
error in this regard.
this same heading, but seemingly completely unrelated to the
above argument, Plaintiff argues that although the ALJ
claimed to be giving significant weight to the 2011
assessment of State agency physician Dr. Starace, the ALJ
failed to give adequate reasons for not incorporating all of
Dr. Starace's limitations. (Doc. 9 at 23-24). Plaintiff
has not cited, and the Court has not located, any law that
requires the ALJ to give explicit reasons for rejecting all
or part of a State agency physician's opinion.
as Defendant notes, the ALJ's residual functional
capacity almost mirrors the limitations found by Dr. Starace.
(Doc. 13 at 8). Therefore, this argument also fails as a
matter of fact because the ALJ did include Dr. Starace's
limitations. Accordingly, the ALJ did not commit error in