United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge
before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff Amy Lou
Finnegan-Crews, which challenges the Social Security
Administration's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 16).
For the following reasons, the Court will affirm the
January 31, 2014 Plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging a disability onset date of November 6,
2013. (Tr. at 10). Plaintiff's claim was denied both
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 80; Tr. at 110).
Plaintiff then appealed to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. at 10). The ALJ conducted a hearing
on the matter on August 16, 2016, and subsequently issued a
decision denying benefits. (Id.). Plaintiff then
appealed her decision to the Appeals Council, which denied
her request for review. (Tr. at 1).
evaluating whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. (Tr. at 11-16). At step one, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 13). At step
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of arthritis, obesity, bipolar disorder,
borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ determined
that none of these impairments, either alone or in
combination, met or equaled any of the Social Security
Administration's listed impairments. (Tr. at 14).
point, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), concluding that Plaintiff could
perform light work prior to August 25, 2015. (Tr. at 32). The
ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff had no past
relevant work. (Tr. at 22). At step five, the ALJ determined
that Finnegan-Crews could perform other jobs identified in
the vocational expert's responses. (Tr. at 23).
Standard of Review
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). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
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 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
ALJ's Evaluation of Dr. Krolik's Opinion
“To reject the uncontradicted opinion of a treating or
examining doctor, an ALJ must state clear and convincing
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence.”
Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir.
2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
“[T]he opinion of a nonexamining physician cannot by
itself constitute substantial evidence that justifies the
rejection of the opinion of either an examining physician or
a treating physician.” Id. (emphasis in
original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
But if a treating doctor's opinion is contradicted by
another nonexamining physician, it may then be rejected for
“specific and legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence in the record for so doing.”
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995).
discredited the opinion of Ms. Finnegan-Crews's treating
physician, Dr. Krolik, for three reasons. The ALJ found that
Dr. Krolik's alleged limitations were inconsistent with
her own treatment records, the degree of limitation alleged
by Dr. Krolik was inconsistent with the claimant's daily
activities, and that Dr. Krolik's assessment was overly
sympathetic and not based on the clinical evidence. (Tr. at
21). In her limitation assessment, dated September 12, 2014,
Dr. Krolik specifically found that “claimant had