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Matthews v. Donna E. Shalala Secretary of Health and Human Services

*fn* submitted san francisco california: September 3, 1993.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. CV-91-20115-JW. James Ware, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Dorothy W. Nelson and William A. Norris, Circuit Judges; and Jack E. Tanner, Senior District Judge.*fn* Opinion by Judge D. W. Nelson.

Author: Nelson

D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

William Matthews ("Matthews") brought suit against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") to recover Social Security disability insurance benefits for a work-related back injury. The district court granted summary judgment for the Secretary. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

William Matthews injured his back while working as a mailroom clerk for the Peterbilt Motors Company on February 28, 1984. Matthews continued to work until he underwent back surgery on October 22, 1986, and returned to work in January 1987. Matthews stopped working soon after he consulted his treating physician on September 1, 1988, complaining of recurrent low back and right leg pain. Matthews had been employed at Peterbilt Motors for 37 years. He worked as a mail room coordinator, printing press operator, receiving clerk/inspector, and used truck salesman as well as in several other clerical positions.

On January 18, 1989, Matthews filed an application for disability insurance benefits as of September 8, 1988. The disability application and requests for reconsideration were both denied. An administrative law Judge ("ALJ") found that Matthews, although physically impaired, was not disabled, and retained the ability to perform a narrow range of medium work precluding repetitive bending and stooping and staying in one position. Despite these limitations, a vocational expert testified that Matthews could return to his former work as a receiving clerk/inspector and had skills transferable to work as a car or light truck salesman. After the Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision, Matthews brought suit pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g), to obtain judicial review of the Secretary's decision. The district court granted the Secretary's cross-motion for summary judgment, and Matthews timely appealed.

Jurisdiction/Standard of Review

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and review a district court's order upholding the Secretary's denial of benefits de novo. Tylitzki v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413 (9th Cir. 1993). We must affirm the Secretary's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence, considering the entire record, is relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a Conclusion. Ibid.


A. Matthews' Pain

"We require specific findings when an ALJ rejects a claimant's subjective allegation of pain." Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 848 (9th Cir. 1985). The ALJ made the following statements to support his findings:

I note that the claimant is under no current treatment for his condition save for chiropractic treatment and since 1988, has described minimal use of pain medications to control his symptoms. As the claimant told Dr. Strassberg in June 1989, his back pain has actually decreased since surgery; it does not interfere with his sleep and does not preclude his performance of housecleaning, light gardening[,] and shopping. At the hearing, the claimant testified that he continues to do housecleaning including vacuuming and dishwashing. Such activities and the lack of any other steps being taken by the claimant to relieve his pain undermines [sic] his assertion of disabling pain. Finally, I note that the claimant is attending school three days a week, an activity which is inconsistent with an alleged inability to perform all work.

Dr. Strassberg, a neurologist who examined Matthews on June 14, 1989, stated in his report that Matthews' "sensory symptoms appear to be somewhat less severe than he presents" and that his pain, "though truly present, may be mildly amplified by him." In light of Dr. Strassberg's report, from which much of the ...

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