United States District Court, D. Arizona
MURRAY SNOW, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Petitioner Deborah Jean Rowe's appeal
of the Social Security Administration's decision to deny
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits. (Doc. 16). For the following reasons, the
decision of the Social Security Administration is affirmed.
Deborah Jean Rowe filed for benefits on March 1, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2010. The Social
Security Administration denied her claim on August 1, 2013
and then again upon rehearing on January 6, 2014. She
submitted a written request for a hearing, and an
administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on October
15, 2015. The ALJ determined that Rowe has two severe
impairments-bipolar disorder and borderline personality
disorder. (Tr. 31). The ALJ also found that Rowe has the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform “work at
all exertional levels” but with limitations, including
being limited to “simple, routine, and repetitive work
tasks involving simple work related decisions and simple
instructions, ” needing a work “environment with
few changes in the work setting, ” and needing to avoid
public contact and more than occasional contact with
coworkers and supervisors. (Tr. 34).
these restrictions, the ALJ determined that Rowe would be
unable to perform her past relevant work, but that she would
be able to work as an assembler, a packager, or a presser.
(Tr. 41-42). The ALJ therefore concluded that Rowe was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. (Tr. 42). Rowe
requested review by the Appeals Council, but was denied
review on June 1, 2017. Rowe now appeals the ALJ's
reviewing social security appeals, courts address only the
issues raised by the claimant. See Lewis v. Apfel,
236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). If the court finds
that the denial of disability is unsupported by substantial
evidence or based on legal error, the denial will be set
aside. 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 marks omitted).
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). “[I]f
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).
raises three issues on appeal. First, she alleges that the
ALJ improperly discounted the opinions of two treatment
providers, Dr. Elizabeth Brown and nurse practitioner Iris
Ruddy. Second, Rowe alleges that the ALJ failed to properly
evaluate Rowe's credibility. Lastly, Rowe challenges the
accepted hypothetical given to the vocational expert (VE) by
the ALJ. The objections lack merit, and the decision of the
ALJ is therefore affirmed.
Evaluation of Medical Evidence
contends that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical
opinion evidence in her case. The ALJ considered medical
evidence from Dr. Brown, Ms. Ruddy, and Dr. Andres Kerns, a
state agency consultant. After considering the entire record,
the ALJ assigned partial weight to the opinion of Dr. Brown,
significant weight to the opinion of Dr. Kerns, and little
weight to the opinion of Ms. Ruddy. (Tr. 39-40).
relevant regulations create a hierarchy for medical opinions
offered by licensed physicians. The opinion of a treating
physician is given more weight than non-treating and
non-examining medical sources. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527; Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 631 (9th Cir.
2007). When the treating doctor's opinion is
uncontradicted, the ALJ can reject those conclusions only for
“‘clear and convincing' reasons.”
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995)
(quoting Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1396
(9th Cir. 1991)). But when the opinion of a treating or
examining physician is contradicted, an ALJ may reject the
contradicted opinion for “specific and legitimate