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Willie R. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 27, 2019

WILLIE R., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Objections (Dkt. No. 11) to the Report and Recommendation of the Honorable Theresa L. Fricke, United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 10.) Having reviewed the Report and Recommendation, the Objections, and all related papers, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendations, AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision, and DISMISSES this case with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts and procedural background are set forth in detail in the Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 10.) Plaintiff raises three objections to the Report and Recommendation, which concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed: (1) the ALJ erred by discounting his symptom testimony; (2) the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinions of several medical sources; and (3) the ALJ erred by finding his tinnitus a non-severe impairment at step two. (Dkt. No. 11.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, the Court must resolve de novo any part of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation that has been properly objected to and may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         II. Plaintiff's Objections

         A. Plaintiff's Symptom Testimony

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by discounting his testimony based on conflict with his daily activities, because none of the activities the ALJ relied on show he is able to perform fulltime work. (Dkt. 11 at 3.) However, an ALJ may discount a claimant's testimony based on daily activities either because they meet the threshold for transferable work skills or because they contradict her testimony. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 639 (9th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff testified that the ringing in his ears is “so loud [that it] just interferes with everything in my daily life….” (Dkt. 6, Admin. Record (AR) 62.) He “sit[s] in quiet places” to reduce his symptoms. (AR 56.) This testimony was contradicted by, among other activities, driving a Model T car and taking airplane flights. Plaintiff flew to Hawaii in 2013. (AR 72-73.) Plaintiff argues that this is irrelevant because it was before his alleged onset date, but it was after his tinnitus had begun. (AR 73.) He also flew to San Diego in 2014 to go to Legoland. (AR 74.) In addition to the flight, Legoland involved “a lot of sensory input.” (AR 94.) Even though driving the Model T is “loud, ” Plaintiff still occasionally drove it around the block during the summer before the hearing and was planning to drive it again the next summer. (AR 89, 55-56.) This was substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's activities contradicted his testimony.

         The Court concludes the ALJ did not err by discounting Plaintiff's symptom testimony.

         B. Medical Opinions

         1. Brenda Havellana, Ph.D.

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by interpreting psychologist Dr. Havellana's report as an opinion of his tinnitus and discounting it on those grounds. (Dkt. 11 at 10.) Plaintiff misinterprets the ALJ's decision. The ALJ credited Dr. Havellana's psychological evaluation but, to the extent her report could be interpreted as “an assessment of the claimant's inability to work due to tinnitus, ...


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