Jaime Ellen Florman-Goforth v. Carolyn W. Colvin

Filing 22

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh. The Court finds that the ALJ set forth legitimate reasons for questioning Plaintiffs testimony and that those reasons are supported by substantial evidence in the record. For that reason, the ALJs credibility determination is affirmed. (See document for further details). (sbou)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 JAIME ELLEN FLORMAN-GOFORTH, Plaintiff, 11 12 13 14 15 v. CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. CV 13-8508-PJW MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 16 17 18 I. INTRODUCTION This matter is before the Court following remand. See Florman- 19 Goforth v. Astrue, CV 10-2895-PJW. 20 Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when she found that Plaintiff 21 was not credible. 22 concludes that the ALJ did not err. 23 24 Plaintiff claims that the For the reasons explained below, the Court II. SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS On April 10, 2006, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging that she 25 became disabled on September 17, 1997, when she was hit in the head by 26 a window she was trying to close in her classroom, causing dizziness, 27 headaches, slurred speech, disorientation, pain, and depression. 28 (Administrative Record (“AR”) 71-75, 92, 151.) Her claim was denied 1 initially and on reconsideration. 2 a hearing before an ALJ. 3 and her request to reschedule was denied. 4 27, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that she was not credible 5 and denying her application for benefits. 6 appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied review. 7 appealed to this court. 8 decision, reversing the ALJ’s decision and remanding the case to the 9 Social Security Administration (“the Agency”) for reconsideration of 10 11 the credibility issue. She then requested and was granted Plaintiff failed to appear for the hearing (AR 18, 45-49.) (AR 18-26.) On March Plaintiff She then On September 9, 2011, the Court issued its (AR 437-44.) On remand, the case was assigned to a different ALJ, who held a 12 hearing on April 16, 2012, in which Plaintiff appeared and testified. 13 (AR 411-35.) 14 finding that Plaintiff was not credible and denying her application 15 for DIB. On April 18, 2012, the second ALJ issued a decision, (AR 385-96.) 16 17 This appeal followed. III. DISCUSSION Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when she found that Plaintiff 18 was not credible. 19 the prior ALJ had said–-which Plaintiff notes was already rejected by 20 this Court–-and, not unexpectedly, arrived at the same conclusion. 21 The record does not support Plaintiff’s argument. 22 She contends that the ALJ simply regurgitated what Plaintiff maintains that the head injury she suffered in 1997 23 prevents her from performing any work to this day. 24 claims that she suffers from vertigo, fuzzy cognitive problems, an 25 inability to focus, headaches, dizziness, and memory loss. 26 According to her testimony, these symptoms prevent her from leaving 27 the house four or five days a week. 28 2 (AR 426.) (AR 425-27.) She (AR 425.) 1 The ALJ did not believe this testimony. She noted, for example, 2 that, though Plaintiff had been working part-time as a teacher in June 3 2005, she stopped working, not because she was disabled, but because 4 she wanted to train to be a masseuse. 5 this finding (AR 92), and it is a legitimate reason for questioning 6 Plaintiff’s claims that she was unable to work due to pain. 7 Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1258 (9th Cir. 1992) (upholding 8 ALJ’s finding that claimant’s testimony that pain precluded work was 9 not credible where claimant left jobs not because of pain but for 10 11 (AR 392.) The record supports See other, unrelated reasons). The ALJ also noted that, despite her claims of debilitating pain, 12 Plaintiff drove herself to college, attended classes and clinics, and 13 studied for her classes, ultimately earning her massage therapist 14 license. 15 (AR 107.) 16 though she may have had trouble with some tests due to her condition, 17 she successfully completed the curriculum. 18 undermines her testimony that she was unable to perform any work and 19 that, in fact, she was so infirm that she was unable to leave her 20 house four to five days a week. 21 F.3d 678, 679-80 (9th Cir. 1993) (affirming ALJ’s finding that 22 claimant’s testimony that pain precluded all work was inconsistent 23 with her ability to attend school three days a week). 24 (AR 392.) This finding, too, is supported by the record. Plaintiff attended college four to six hours a day and, (AR 100, 423-24.) This See, e.g., Matthews v. Shalala, 10 The ALJ also noted the contradiction between Plaintiff’s claim 25 that she spent most of her time alone and avoided noise and lights and 26 the fact that she went to coffeehouses with her friends to listen to 27 music/comedy and attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings several times 28 a week. (AR 392.) Similarly, the ALJ focused on the fact that 3 1 Plaintiff testified that she depended on friends to walk her dogs, 2 help around the house, and take her places (AR 392), but told the 3 examining doctor that she spent her time walking, attending Al-Anon 4 meetings, getting together with friends, and gardening. 5 Plaintiff also told this doctor that she did her own cooking, 6 shopping, and housework and that the only thing she could not do as a 7 result of her injury was teach because the noise bothered her. 8 171.) 9 for questioning Plaintiff’s testimony. (AR 171.) (AR These reasons are supported by the record and are valid reasons See Batson v. Comm’r of Soc. 10 Sec., 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004) (upholding ALJ’s finding 11 that claimant’s professed inability to work because of pain was 12 contradicted by his testimony that he tended to his animals, walked 13 outdoors, went out for coffee, and visited with neighbors); and Smolen 14 v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1284 (9th Cir. 1996) (explaining ALJ may 15 consider claimant’s daily activities and prior inconsistent statements 16 in evaluating testimony about severity of symptoms). 17 Finally, the ALJ found that the treatment records, or lack 18 thereof, undermined Plaintiff’s claims of debilitating pain and 19 limitations. 20 primarily by a chiropractor and an acupuncturist and that her visits 21 to medical doctors were few and far between. 22 a valid reason for questioning Plaintiff’s testimony, Orn v. Astrue, 23 495 F.3d 625, 638 (9th Cir. 2007) (explaining claimant’s unexplained 24 failure to seek medical treatment is a valid reason for questioning 25 claim of debilitating pain), and is supported by the record. 26 medical records in this case span 15 years. 27 records from medical doctors. 28 debilitating that 15 years after her injury she was still unable to She noted, for example, that Plaintiff was treated (AR 392.) This, too, is The There are very few Presumably, if Plaintiff’s pain was so 4 1 leave her house four or five days a week, she would have exhausted 2 every available avenue to treat her condition. 3 records in the file support the ALJ’s finding that she failed to do 4 that and calls into question the sincerity of her claims. 5 The dearth of medical In the end, the Court finds that the ALJ set forth legitimate 6 reasons for questioning Plaintiff’s testimony and that those reasons 7 are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 8 the ALJ’s credibility determination is affirmed. 9 10 For that reason, IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: March 17, 2015 11 12 13 ________________________________ PATRICK J. WALSH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 S:\PJW\Cases-Social Security\FLORMAN-GOFORTH, 8508\memo opin and order.wpd 5

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