United States District Court, D. Arizona
MURRAY SNOW CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is claimant Renee Lee Miller'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
upholds the ALJ's decision.
November 25, 2013, Ms. Miller filed a claim for disability
insurance benefits. She subsequently filed a claim for
supplemental security income on April 9, 2014. She alleged
that she suffers from various mental impairments, including
epilepsy, as a result of a successfully removed brain tumor.
(Tr. 34). Ms. Miller alleges a disability onset date of
January 1, 2007. The claim was denied on initial review and
reconsideration. (Tr. 73- 74; 111-12). Ms. Miller appeared
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Myriam C. Fernandez
Rice on January 7, 2015. (Tr. 31). In evaluating whether Ms.
Miller was disabled, the ALJ undertook the five-step
sequential evaluation for determining
disability. (Tr. 32-33).
one, the ALJ found that Ms. Miller had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
January 1, 2007. (Tr. 34). At step two, the ALJ determined
that Ms. Miller suffers from post-surgical removal of a brain
tumor and associated continued seizure disorder; as well as
depression, anxiety, and neurocognitive disorder. (Tr. 34).
At step three, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Miller's
impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed
impairment in the regulations. (Tr. 34-36). At step four, the
ALJ determined Ms. Miller's residual functional capacity
and found that she could perform work at all exertional
levels, but with various non-exertional exceptions, such as
never climbing ladders, no exposure to unprotected heights or
moving machinery, and no driving. (Tr. 37). Other
non-exertional limitations include performing only simple,
routine, repetitive tasks and limited interaction with the
public. (Tr. 37). As part of this analysis, the ALJ
considered the opinion testimony of treating physicians at
Banner Desert Medical Center and various consultative
examining physicians and reviewing physicians. (Tr. 40-41).
The ALJ then determined that Ms. Miller is not capable of
performing her past relevant work as a receptionist,
telemarketer, or stock clerk, but she could perform work that
is available in the national economy, such as kitchen helper,
industrial cleaner, and automobile detailer. (Tr. 42).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Ms. Miller does not
qualify for disability benefits. (Tr. 44).
Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied Ms.
Miller's request for review. (Tr. 1). She filed this
complaint on August 10, 2017 to seek judicial review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
reviewing federal court will 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). The ALJ 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
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). A reviewing court may draw specific and legitimate
inferences from an ALJ's decision, but it cannot
speculate on the ALJ's reasoning or make “post hoc
rationalizations that attempt to intuit what the adjudicator
may have been thinking.” Bray v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 554 F.3d 1219, 1225 (9th Cir. 2009).
presents two arguments: (1) the ALJ improperly discounted her
allegations, and (2) the ALJ failed to consider the entire
record in formulating her residual functional capacity.
Claimant's Credibility Concerning Subjective
claimant alleges subjective symptoms, the ALJ must follow a
two-step analysis to decide whether to credit the
claimant's testimony. First, the claimant “must
produce objective medical evidence of an underlying
impairment which could reasonably be expected to produce the
pain or other symptoms alleged.” Smolen v.
Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1281 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 344 (9th Cir.
1991)) (quotation marks omitted). The claimant does not need
to show “that her impairment could reasonably be
expected to cause the severity of the symptom she has
alleged; she need only show that it could reasonably have
caused some degree of the symptom.” Smolen, 80
F.3d at 1282. Second, if the claimant can make the showing
required in the first step and the ALJ does not find any
evidence of malingering, “the ALJ can reject the
claimant's testimony about the severity of her symptoms
only by offering specific, clear and convincing reasons for
doing so.” Id. at 1281.
found that Claimant's medically determinable impairments
could reasonably cause the alleged symptoms, but that the
record did not support Claimant's allegations concerning
the intensity and limiting effects of her condition. (Tr.
38). The ALJ generally discredited Claimant because she
successfully managed seizures by taking Keppra and Lamictal,
and she managed anxiety with Xanax; the objective medical
evidence and medical record indicate that Claimant went
through months at a time without suffering a seizure;
Claimant's daily activities, such as driving, caring for
her children, working for her sister-in-law's business,
and attending family functions, are inconsistent with the
alleged limitations; and otherwise minimal evidence to