United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge
before the Court is Claimant Alicia Jeanne Klick's appeal
of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) decision to
deny disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (Doc. 16). For the following reasons, the Court
affirms the denial of benefits.
Klick filed for disability benefits on April 2, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of May 16, 2011. Ms.
Klick's application for SSA disability benefits asserts
traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, and an eye and sleep
diagnosis. (Tr. 125). Her claim was denied on November 20,
2013; reconsideration was denied on June 16, 2014. (Tr.
170-78; 184-91). Ms. Klick requested a hearing from an
administrative law judge (ALJ), which was held on September
24, 2015. The ALJ determined that Ms. Klick had the following
severe impairments: traumatic brain injury and hearing
impairment. (Tr. 21). The ALJ found that Ms. Klick had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of
work at all exertional levels. But, the ALJ assessed multiple
non-exertional limitations, including: need for hearing aids,
need to work in a quiet environment, moderate limitations on
the ability to remember and carry out detailed instructions,
moderate limitations on the ability to maintain attention and
concentration, moderate limitations on the ability to perform
work at a consistent pace, moderate limitations on the
ability to interact with the general public and to get along
with coworker, and other similar limitations. (Tr. 24). The
ALJ found that, even with these restrictions, Ms. Klick could
perform the work she had done in the past, namely working as
a case manager or a nanny. (Tr. 33). The ALJ also concluded
that Ms. Klick could perform other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 34). As
such, the ALJ determined that Ms. Klick was not disabled
under the Social Security Act. Id. The Appeals
Council denied the request to review, making the
Commissioner's decision final. (Tr. 1-4). Ms. Klick now
seeks judicial review of this decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reviewing federal court will address only 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 when 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). It is
“relevant evidence which, considering the record as a
whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation
is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).
When evidence is “subject to more than one rational
interpretation, [courts] 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)
alleges that the ALJ erred by (1) discounting the examining
psychologist's opinion and (2) rejecting the
Claimant's credibility and symptom testimony.
Evaluation of Medical Evidence
states that “[a]s an initial matter, Klick disagrees
with the ALJ's assignment of weight to all
medical opinions in this case . . . [h]owever, in the
interest of streamlining Klick's complex constellation of
medical issues and assessments, Klick focuses on the
ALJ's error with regard to examining psychologist Brent
Geary, Ph.D.” (Doc. 16, p. 17). Claimant did list all
the providers' whose opinions were discounted by the ALJ
while detailing the medical evidence in the case. (Doc. 16,
pp. 11-12). But that is not sufficient. Each of
Claimant's contentions “must be supported by
specific reference to the portion of the record relied upon
and by citations to statutes, regulations, and cases
supporting [Claimant's] position.” L.R. Civ.
16.1(a)(4). Each of the providers' opinions were
different in nature, length, and character, and the ALJ
evaluated each independently. The Court and the Commissioner
cannot do guesswork to determine how Claimant thinks the ALJ
erred in evaluating multiple providers' opinions. See
Lewis, 236 F.3d at 517 n. 13 (noting that courts will
not address issues not raised by the Claimant on appeal).
Therefore, the Court finds that Claimant has waived her
arguments as to all providers who are not discussed with
Geary performed a consultative examination of Claimant on
September 11, 2015. (Tr. 1417-27). Dr. Geary met with
Claimant, observed her behavior, discussed her routine and
habits, and reviewed some past psychological evaluations. Dr.
Geary also administered a number of evaluations. Claimant
scored a 30 out of 30 on the mini mental status exam. (Tr.
1418). Claimant was found to have a full scale IQ of 85. (Tr.
1421). Dr. Geary further opined that Claimant's score was
“decreased significantly by the low Working Memory and
Processing Speed Indexes. . . . [and] [i]t appears likely
that Alicia's true intellectual abilities are represented
by the Verbal Comprehension  and Perceptual Reasoning
 Indexes, both in the average range.” Id.
Dr. Geary also assessed Claimant's memory, finding that
she was “at the top of the low average range” but
that she had “significant weakness in long-term
memorial functioning.” Id. Claimant scored a
26 out of 30 on the Logical Memory Recognition items, 34 out
of 40 on the Verbal Paired Associates Recognition, 5 out of 7
on Visual Reproduction Recognition, and 20 out of 20 on
Designs Recognition. (Tr. 1421-22). Dr. Geary stated that
these “values are well within normal limits.”
(Tr. 1422). On the Trail Making Test, Dr. Geary noted that
both of Claimant's “performances far exceed normal
limits.” Id. On the Rey Test, Claimant's
performance resulted in a “normal range finding.”
Id. Claimant did not believe she was affected by
depression. Id. And a personality inventory resulted
in “a valid profile” and Claimant
“seemingly responded to inventory items in an open and
reasonable manner.” Id. Dr. Geary then opined
that Claimant meets the criteria for Listing Impairments
12.02 and 12.06 and that the “psychological prognosis
in this case is poor.” (Tr. 1423).
gave Dr. Geary's opinion minimal weight. (Tr. 28). The
ALJ noted that Dr. Geary's opinion contained
inconsistencies: many of the tests Dr. Geary administered
resulted in normal findings, but Dr. Geary also opined that
Claimant met two Listing Impairments. Id. The ALJ
also noted that some of Dr. Geary's statements about
Claimant's disability were opinions on issues reserved to
the Commissioner. Id. Claimant asserts that the ALJ
erred in assigning only minimal weight to Dr. Geary's
report. First, Claimant argues that the ALJ's finding
that Dr. Geary's examination was largely normal is
contradicted by some of Dr. Geary's findings that
Claimant had limitations. Dr. Geary's report contained
both findings of normal testing and some limitations.
Internal inconsistencies in physician's reports
constitute relevant evidence, and the ALJ has the
responsibility to determine whether inconsistencies are
material and are relevant. Morgan v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 603 (9th Cir. 1999). The ALJ
did not err in evaluating the inconsistencies in Dr.
Geary's report and finding them relevant. Second, the
Claimant argues that the ALJ erred by failing to specify ...