United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
W. CHRISTEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration's (“Commissioner”) denial of
Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). 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. 2.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly
analyzed Plaintiff's credibility and the lay opinion
testimony. As the ALJ's decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled is supported by substantial evidence, the
undersigned affirms the Commissioner's decision pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of September 14, 2015. See
Dkt. 16, Administrative Record (“AR”) 15. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 15. A hearing was held
before ALJ Gerald J. Hill on May 11, 2018. See AR
15. In a decision dated July 17, 2018, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR 21.
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; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred by failing to
properly consider: (1) Plaintiff's subjective symptom
testimony; and (2) Plaintiff's spouse's lay witness
testimony. Dkt. 13, pp. 3-12. Plaintiff requests remand for
an award of benefits. Id. at p. 11.
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
Whether the ALJ provided specific, clear, and convincing
reasons for finding Plaintiff's
subjective symptom testimony not fully supported.
contends the ALJ erred by failing to provide specific, clear,
and convincing reasons for finding Plaintiff's subjective
symptom testimony not fully supported. Dkt. 13.
reject a claimant's subjective complaints, the ALJ must
provide “specific, cogent reasons for the
disbelief.” Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834
(9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). The ALJ “must
identify what testimony is not credible and what evidence
undermines the claimant's complaints.”
Id.; Dodrill v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 915, 918
(9th Cir. 1993). Unless affirmative evidence shows the
claimant is malingering, the ALJ's reasons for rejecting
the claimant's testimony must be “clear and
convincing.” Lester, 81 F.2d at 834. Questions
of credibility are solely within the control of the ALJ.
Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir.
1982). The Court should not “second-guess” this
credibility determination. Allen v. Heckler, 749
F.2d 577, 580 (9th Cir. 1984). In addition, the Court may not
reverse a credibility determination where that determination
is based on contradictory or ambiguous evidence. Id.
at 579. Plaintiff has a history of pancreatitis,
dating back to as early as 2003. See AR 231.
Plaintiff reported that he experiences severe abdominal pain
and occasionally severe headaches. AR 32-33, 42. Plaintiff
says he deals with his pain most of the time by sleeping. AR
34, 42. Plaintiff testified he can drive short distances but
cannot walk more than a couple of blocks. AR 35, 37.
Plaintiff said he can go to the grocery store alone, but has
trouble doing chores around the house such as laundry or
doing the dishes. AR 35. Plaintiff reported that he can stand
for 10 to 15 minutes but cannot lift garbage or laundry. AR
37. Plaintiff spends his time reading, watching television,
and spending time with his two pet cats. AR 35.
has tried several medications in attempt to ameliorate his
pain but consistently reports that none provide any
significant relief. See AR 246, 249, 266, 299, 326,
351. He consistently reports he does not like opiates because
of how they make him feel. AR 243, 249, 270. Plaintiff
testified that enzyme therapy was helpful in treating his
nausea and diarrhea but not in treating his pain. AR 39, 297,
outlining the medical evidence contained in the record, the
ALJ found Plaintiff's “medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning
the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these
symptoms are not entirely ...