Maria D Aguilar v. Michael J Astrue

Filing 21

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Victor B. Kenton, The decision of the ALJ will be affirmed. The Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice. (SEE ORDER FOR FURTHER DETAILS) (lmh)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA WESTERN DIVISION 7 8 9 10 11 MARIA D. AGUILAR, 12 13 14 15 Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, 16 Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. ED CV 10-01394-VBK MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case) 17 18 This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the 19 Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff’s application for 20 disability benefits. 21 consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. 22 action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to 23 enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before 24 the Commissioner. 25 (“JS”), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative 26 Record (“AR”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have The The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation 27 Plaintiff raises the following issues: 28 1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly 1 2 rejected Plaintiff’s testimony. (JS at 4.) 3 4 This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court’s findings of 5 fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court 6 concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed. 7 8 I 9 THE ALJ PROPERLY ASSESSED PLAINTIFF’S CREDIBILITY 10 Plaintiff’s sole issue in this litigation is that the ALJ gave 11 legally inadequate reasons in his decision to reject the subjective 12 symptom and pain testimony of the Plaintiff. 13 Plaintiff suffers from lupus, which the ALJ determined to be a 14 severe impairment. (AR 22.) 15 disabling joint pain and fatigue. (AR 27, 43-44, 183-189, 224-225, 16 249-250, 286-287.) Indeed, in her testimony at the hearing before the 17 ALJ (AR 38-63), Plaintiff offered substantial testimony as to her 18 joint pain and related symptoms. (See AR at 46-51.) 19 difficulty in holding a pen in her dominant hand; inability to write 20 a page; dropping things held with her dominant hand; difficulty 21 holding on to items; difficulty buttoning buttons with her dominant 22 hand; difficulty opening up jars and doorknobs; difficulty raising her 23 arm to shoulder level; difficulty showering and bathing; difficulty 24 getting dressed; limitation on her ability to do household chores; 25 difficulty sitting for more than an hour or half an hour at a time; 26 difficulty 27 difficulty lifting and carrying items; and pain-related limitations on 28 her social life. (Id.) standing; As a result of this condition she claims ability to 2 walk for at most This included 15 minutes; 1 In his decision, the ALJ devoted substantial discussion to the 2 issue 3 Plaintiff’s allegations of disabling symptoms are not supported by the 4 evidence of record. (AR 29-30.) 5 of Plaintiff’s Plaintiff asserts credibility, that the ultimately ALJ gave determining inadequate that reasons to 6 discount her credibility. 7 rejected her credibility because her symptom testimony lacks support 8 in 9 Plaintiff’s ability to do daily activities was incorrect. (See JS at the objective medical Indeed, Plaintiff’s view is that the ALJ evidence, 10 7-9.) 11 far 12 important, 13 and that his assessment of A review of the decision, however, reveals that the ALJ gave contradicted the reasons provided. more extensive reasons Plaintiff has than not, Plaintiff in this credits, and litigation, equally seriously 14 The ALJ’s decision itself sets forth the reasons upon which he 15 relied, and thus, Plaintiff’s fear that the justification for the 16 ALJ’s rationale depends upon post-hoc reasoning is unfounded. 17 Certainly, there are elements in the ALJ’s analysis which 18 unfavorably compare the extent of Plaintiff claim of limitations due 19 to pain and fatigue with the objective medical evidence. For example, 20 with regard to the claim that she has difficulty holding things and 21 doing tasks such as opening jars, the ALJ noted that she never made 22 such complaints to her treating physicians. (AR 29.) 23 Plaintiff 24 intermittent joint pain, and there was no notation of pain in her 25 hands until April 2009. (AR 29, 502.) primarily complained repeatedly of As he noted, occasional or 26 Significantly, the ALJ noted that the record is replete with 27 entries that not only was Plaintiff’s joint pain intermittent, but it 28 was relieved with such things as stretching and Ibuprofen or Tylenol. 3 1 (AR 29, 502 [“Symptoms were relieved with stretching and mildly from 2 ibuprofen or tylenol p.m.”].) 3 The ALJ noted that while Plaintiff has been found during 4 examination to have swelling and tenderness in the bilateral hands 5 and/or fingers, this was noted to be mild until April 2009. (AR 29, 6 exhibits cited therein.) 7 Consistent with the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff’s joint 8 problems with her hands did not cause the level of extreme difficulty 9 in fine manipulation that Plaintiff claimed, he noted that she was 10 referred for x-rays of the knee, but not for the hands, “further 11 indicating the claimant’s complaints have not been significant with 12 regard to her hands.” (AR 29.) 13 Citing extensively from the medical records, the ALJ noted that 14 Plaintiff’s joint pain was reported to be occasional, intermittent 15 and/or mild in October 2007; January 2008; April 2008; September 2008; 16 February 2009; March 2009; April 2009; and July 2009. (AR 29, with 17 exhibit citations.) 18 The ALJ also noted Plaintiff’s own statements, such as one she 19 made during a medical examination in February 2008 when she described 20 herself as having a “mild case of lupus” and denied having any 21 significant health concerns related to the lupus. (AR 30, 301.) 22 With regard to the effect of medications on her symptoms, the ALJ 23 noted Plaintiff’s own admission that her “body hurts without my 24 medications.” (AR 30, 154.) 25 she is on her medications, she can do household chores such as 26 cleaning and laundry. (AR 30, 155.) 27 28 As such, Plaintiff indicated that when All of these factors, cited explicitly in the ALJ’s decision, are relevant to a credibility determination. 4 Certainly, the ALJ can take 1 note of a discrepancy or contradiction between subjective pain 2 statements and the objective medical evidence in the record, although, 3 as Plaintiff correctly notes, both the regulations and established 4 case law prohibit this factor being utilized solely to determine 5 credibility. The converse is true; i.e., that it is a relevant factor 6 when considered with other credibility factors. 7 ameliorative effect of medications is a factor in the credibility 8 determination. 9 such reference to the helpful effect of medications, especially during Similarly, the Related to this is the fact that Plaintiff made no 10 her testimony before the ALJ. 11 Sec. Admin., 439 F.3d 1001, 1006 (9th Cir. 2006). 12 finding that Plaintiff does better when on her medications is the 13 fact, 14 compliant with her medications, which is also a credibility factor. noticed by the ALJ, See Warre v. Commissioner of Social that she is Consistent with the therefore sometimes not 15 Certainly, the ALJ’s decision does not evidence an arbitrary 16 discrediting of Plaintiff’s credibility, but rather, a careful reading 17 of the record to make the requisite assessment. 18 basis in the record to disturb the ALJ’s findings, which are clearly 19 based on substantial evidence. 20 21 22 The decision of the ALJ will be affirmed. The Court finds no The Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice. IT IS SO ORDERED. 23 24 25 DATED: December 6, 2011 /s/ VICTOR B. KENTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 26 27 28 5

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