United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ANGELA N. WHITEMAN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
J. RICHARD CREATURA, Magistrate Judge.
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 13 ( see also Notice of Initial Assignment to a U.S. Magistrate Judge and Consent Form, ECF No. 5; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 6). Plaintiff has filed an Opening Brief, to which defendant has filed a Responsive Brief ( see ECF Nos. 16, 17).
After reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ properly discounted plaintiff's credibility because of inconsistency of plaintiff's testimony with the objective medical evidence, as well as plaintiff's drug seeking behavior. The ALJ also did not err by relying on the opinion of an examining physician over the opinion from nonexamining physicians.
Therefore, this matter is affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff, ANGELA N. WHITEMAN, was born in 1978 and was 30 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 8, 2009 ( see Tr. 204). Plaintiff graduated from high school (Tr. 37, 54), and has worked in fast food restaurants, convenience stores and as a caregiver (Tr. 58-60). Plaintiff last worked managing a gas station in 2008. She was terminated when the corporation owning the station "went in another direction" (Tr. 38).
Plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "right lower extremity nerve injury with ankle and foot weakness, history of clotting disorder, low back and hip abnormalities due to motor vehicle collision and fractures, obesity, alcohol abuse in full sustained remission, methamphetamine dependence in full sustained remission, and marijuana dependence (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 14).
On July 29, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance ("DIB") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 197-200, 201-03). Plaintiff's claims were denied (Tr. 118-21) and plaintiff did not appeal this decision.
Plaintiff filed new claims for DIB and SSI on September 1, 2010 (Tr. 204-07, 208-11). The applications were denied initially and following reconsideration (Tr. 124-27, 134-35, 139-41). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge David Johnson ("the ALJ") on May 3, 2012 ( see Tr. 31-69). On May 31, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 9-24).
On April 11, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the written decision by the ALJ the final agency decision subject to judicial review (Tr. 1-6). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision in June 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 1, 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on October 1, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 10, 11).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff asserts that the ALJ: (1) erred in adopting the findings of Dr. Rosenberg, which were contrary to the evidence in the record, while rejecting the opinions of the non-examining physicians who had considered the residual effects of plaintiff's trauma on her functioning; and (2) erred in finding that plaintiff's allegations were not fully credible ( see ECF No. 16, p. 1). The Court will discuss these issues in reverse order.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. ...