Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lang v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 28, 2018

Kelly Diane Lang, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DOUGLAS L. RAYES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on February 12, 2013, alleging disability beginning November 1, 2010. (A.R. 21.) The claim was denied initially on July 30, 2013, and upon reconsideration on December 17, 2013. (Id.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing. (Id.) On November 23, 2014, Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 47-81.) During the hearing, Plaintiff amended her disability onset date to November 1, 2012. (Id. at 21.)

         On March 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Id. at 21-39.) This became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied review. (Id. at 1-3.) On October 6, 2016, Plaintiff sought review by this Court. (Doc. 1.) After receipt of the administrative record (Doc. 16), the parties fully briefed the issues for review (Docs. 17, 18). For reasons stated below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         To determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). At the first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. At step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a “severe” medically determinable physical or mental impairment. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. At step three, the ALJ considers whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is automatically found to be disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and determines whether the claimant is still capable of performing past relevant work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. If not, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step, where she determines whether the claimant can perform any other work based on the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015, and that she has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 1, 2010. (A.R. 24.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: status post right knee replacement and revision, left knee degenerative joint disease, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, lumbar degenerative disc disease, and cervical degenerative disc disease. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. (Id. at 28.) At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff:

has the [RFC] to perform light work . . . except [she] can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; [She] can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. She can frequently balance, but would need to avoid concentrated exposure to dangerous machinery with moving and mechanical parts and concentrate exposure to unprotected heights that are high or exposed.

(Id. at 30.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a teacher's aide. (Id. at 38.) Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Id. at 39.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         It is not the district court's role to review the ALJ's decision de novo or otherwise determine whether the claimant is disabled. Rather, the court is limited to reviewing the ALJ's decision to determine whether it “contains legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance, and “such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. “Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Id. The court, however, “must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific quantum of supporting evidence.'” Id. Nor may the court “affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Id.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's RFC determination, arguing that the ALJ improperly weighed medical and other source opinions and found Plaintiff's cane not medically necessary. Plaintiff also asserts that the ALJ erred in rejecting her symptom testimony. Having reviewed the record and the parties' briefs, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not error.

         I. The ALJ Properly Weighed the Medical Opinions

         In weighing medical source opinions, the Ninth Circuit distinguishes among three types of physicians: (1) treating physicians, who actually treat the claimant; (2) examining physicians, who examine but do not treat the claimant; and (3) non-examining physicians, who neither treat nor examine the claimant. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995). Generally, more weight should be given to the opinion of a treating physician than to the opinions of non-treating physicians. Id. However, a treating physician's opinion is entitled to controlling weight only if the opinion is well-supported by medically acceptable diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the case record. 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1527(d)(2), 416.927(c)(2). Even where a treating physician's opinion is contradicted, it may not be rejected without ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.