United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes, United States District Judge.
Lora Green seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration's decision to deny her
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits. Plaintiff argues that the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ'”) improperly weighed the
opinion of Plaintiff's treating medical provider, gave
too much weight to the state agency examiner and physicians,
and improperly discounted her symptom testimony.
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
and reviews only those issues raised by the party challenging
the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d
503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). The ALJ's determination
will be upheld unless it contains harmful legal error or is
not supported by substantial evidence. Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Having
reviewed the parties' briefs and the administrative
record, the Court affirms.
ALJ gave specific and legitimate reasons, supported by
substantial evidence in the record, for affording little
weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician,
Dr. Venger. See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830
(9th Cir. 1995). Dr. Venger opined that Plaintiff could never
lift or carry more than 5 pounds, stoop, squat, climb, or
crawl; could occasionally grasp, pull, push, and do fine
manipulation with her hands; is unable to sit or stand/walk
more than 1 hour in an 8-hour workday; and has total
restriction with respect to being around moving machinery or
occupational driving. Dr. Venger also noted that Plaintiff is
in constant pain, exacerbated by the physical demands of
caring for her mentally challenged child. The ALJ reasonably
discounted Dr. Venger's assessment because it was not
supported by Dr. Venger's own treatment records. See
Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1216 (9th Cir.
2005). For example, with respect to Plaintiff's cervical
and thoracic spine, Dr. Venger found Plaintiff non-tender to
palpitation, had no spasms, full range of motion, normal
muscle strength and tone, and no pain with neck movement. Dr.
Venger also observed minimal pain in Plaintiff's
lumbosacral spine upon flexion, extension, and bending. The
ALJ also reasonably discounted Dr. Venger's opinion
because it was based to a large extent on Plaintiff's
subjective complaints, which the ALJ found not entirely
credible. See Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035,
1041 (9th Cir. 2008).
ALJ did not assign improper weight to state agency reviewers.
Dr. Schellenberg, the state agency consultative examiner,
opined that Plaintiff did not suffer from any limitations.
State agency physicians Drs. Griffith and Painton found
Plaintiff not disabled, noting little evidence supporting the
severity of her spinal disorders. The ALJ gave legally
adequate reasons for assigning partial weight to these
opinions. For example, the ALJ assigned partial weight to Dr.
Schellenberg's opinion because it is based on objective
testing and observations Dr. Schellenberg made during his
examination, and because his opinion is consistent with the
record as a whole. The ALJ gave partial weight to the
opinions of Drs. Griffith and Painton because their opinions
are well-explained and supported by the medical evidence.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(3)-(4).
ALJ provided the requisite specific, clear, and convincing
reasons for discounting Plaintiff's testimony concerning
the severity of her symptoms. See Smolen v. Chater,
80 F.3d 1273, 1281 (9th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff reported that
she is bed ridden several days a week due to extreme pain,
has difficulty with buttons and tying shoes, needs help to
get out of the bathtub, is unable to shave or put on makeup,
and needs reminders to take her medication and tend to her
personal needs. The ALJ reasonably found that Plaintiffs
testimony was inconsistent with the objective medical
evidence. See Rollins v. Massanari, 261 F.3d 853,
857 (9th Cir. 2001). For example, despite Plaintiffs
contention that her impairments had a significant impact on
her ability to stand and walk, medical evidence reflected
that Plaintiffs gait and station repeatedly were observed as
normal and that Plaintiff was prescribed no assistive
devices. The ALJ also noted that the record contains no
electrodiagnostic evidence consistent with Plaintiffs
reported inability to stand, sit or walk during an 8-hour
work day. The ALJ also reasonably discounted Plaintiff s
testimony because her part-time work and daily activities are
not limited to the extent one would expect given the severity
of Plaintiffs claimed symptoms. See Bray v. Comm 'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1221 (9th Cir. 2009).
For example, Plaintiff worked part-time for the Census Bureau
since 2007 with no change in her work duties, and she is the
primary caregiver for her adult daughter, who is non-verbal
and has Angelman syndrome.
the ALJ's decision is free of harmful legal error and
reasonably supported by the evidence, IT IS
ORDERED that the Commissioner's decision is
AFFIRMED. The Clerk of Court is ...