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Voravong v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 20, 2017

NANCY A BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          David W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Phaysone S. Voravong, proceeding pro se, filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial of his application for supplemental security income (“SSI”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 7.

         After considering the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly analyzed the medical opinion evidence and Plaintiff's credibility. The Court also concludes remand under sentence six is not warranted in this case. As the ALJ's decision finding Plaintiff not disabled is supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         On September 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability as of December 11, 2012. See Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (“AR”) 15. The application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See AR 15. A hearing was held before ALJ Timothy Mangrum on January 13, 2015. See AR 35-59. In a decision dated June 30, 2015, the ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 15-30. Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-5, 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.

         In the Opening Brief, it appears Plaintiff is arguing: (1) he disagrees with the medical opinion evidence and the ALJ's decision; and (2) the ALJ failed to provide specific, clear, and convincing reasons for finding Plaintiff's subjective testimony not entirely credible. Dkt. 11. Plaintiff also attaches a new medical opinion to his Opening Brief, which he requests the Court consider. Id.[1]


         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. 2005) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)).


         I. Whether the ALJ incorrectly interpreted the medical evidence.

         In the Opening Brief, Plaintiff argues the ALJ incorrectly interpreted the medical evidence. Dkt. 11. He also states he disagrees with several doctors' opinions. Id. Plaintiff, however, does not articulate any errors in the ALJ's opinion. Id.

         Plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating there are harmful errors in the ALJ's decision. Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 410 (2009). Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any errors. Rather, he asserts the medical evidence is incorrect and he disagrees with the ALJ's interpretation of the evidence. Dkt. 11. Plaintiff is essentially requesting the Court reweigh the evidence and find the ALJ erred in his consideration of all the medical evidence. See id. However, the role of the Court is not to reweigh the evidence and arrive at an independent conclusion. Smolen, 80 F.3d at 1279. The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility and resolving ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir. 1998). If the evidence “is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, ” including one supporting the decision of the Commissioner, the Commissioner's conclusion “must be upheld.” Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Morgan, 169 F.3d at 599, 601).

         Here, the ALJ discussed all five steps of the sequential evaluation process. AR 15-30. The ALJ discussed Plaintiff's medical history in detail. See AR 19-24. He then explained the weight he assigned to Plaintiff's testimony and the medical opinion evidence. AR 19-28. The ALJ reviewed the medical evidence and determined the credibility of the evidence. AR 19-30. The Court cannot overturn the ALJ's opinion simply because Plaintiff disagrees with the result. Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff has not shown the ALJ erred in how the ALJ considered the evidence.

         II. Whether the ALJ provided sufficient reasons for discrediting ...

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