Minodora Beck v. Carolyn W. Colvin

Filing 17

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER by Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth. IT IS ORDERED that judgment be entered AFFIRMING the decision of the Commissioner and dismissing this action with prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk serve copies of this Order and the Judgment on counsel for both parties. (See Order for details) (bem)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 MINODORA BECK, 10 Plaintiff, 11 vs. 12 13 CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 14 Defendant. 15 ) Case No. EDCV 13-1314-JPR ) ) ) MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ) AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 16 17 I. 18 PROCEEDINGS Plaintiff seeks review of the Commissioner’s final decision 19 denying her applications for disability insurance benefits 20 (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). The parties 21 consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned U.S. Magistrate 22 Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). This matter is before the Court 23 on the parties’ Joint Stipulation, filed April 17, 2014, which 24 the Court has taken under submission without oral argument. For 25 the reasons stated below, the Commissioner’s decision is affirmed 26 and judgment is entered in her favor. 27 28 1 1 II. BACKGROUND 2 Plaintiff was born on May 29, 1950. (AR 179.) 3 a GED and is a certified nursing assistant. She obtained (AR 211.) She 4 previously worked as a machinist, nanny, inpatient caregiver, in5 home caregiver, and caregiver to her mother. (AR 32-33, 198, 6 211.) 7 8 2011. Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on August 16, (AR 179-92.) She alleged that she had been unable to work 9 since July 17, 2010, because of a broken right ankle, plates and 10 screws in that ankle, back injury, and pain in both shoulders. 11 (AR 210.) After her applications were denied, she requested a 12 hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. 13 A hearing was held on June 22, 2011. (AR 117-18.) (AR 24-56.) 14 Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified, as did a 15 vocational expert. (Id.) In a written decision issued April 17, 16 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. 17 12-20.) (AR On May 30, 2013, the Appeals Council denied her request 18 for review. (AR 1-3.) This action followed. 19 III. STANDARD OF REVIEW 20 Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the 21 Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits. The ALJ’s findings and 22 decision should be upheld if they are free of legal error and 23 supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 24 Id.; Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. 25 Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence 26 means such evidence as a reasonable person might accept as 27 adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401; 28 Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). 2 It 1 is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance. 2 Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. 3 Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether 4 substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court 5 “must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both 6 the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from 7 the Commissioner’s conclusion.” 8 720 (9th Cir. 1996). Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, “If the evidence can reasonably support 9 either affirming or reversing,” the reviewing court “may not 10 substitute its judgment” for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 11 720-21. 12 IV. THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY 13 People are “disabled” for purposes of receiving Social 14 Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial 15 gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is 16 expected to result in death or which has lasted, or is expected 17 to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months. 42 18 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 19 (9th Cir. 1992). 20 A. 21 The ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process in The Five-Step Evaluation Process 22 assessing whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. 23 §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 24 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995) (as amended Apr. 9, 1996). In the first 25 step, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is 26 currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, the 27 claimant is not disabled and the claim must be denied. 28 §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). 3 If the claimant is not 1 engaged in substantial gainful activity, the second step requires 2 the Commissioner to determine whether the claimant has a “severe” 3 impairment or combination of impairments significantly limiting 4 her ability to do basic work activities; if not, a finding of not 5 disabled is made and the claim must be denied. 6 §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a 7 “severe” impairment or combination of impairments, the third step 8 requires the Commissioner to determine whether the impairment or 9 combination of impairments meets or equals an impairment in the 10 Listing of Impairments (“Listing”) set forth at 20 C.F.R., Part 11 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; if so, disability is conclusively 12 presumed and benefits are awarded. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 13 416.920(a)(4)(iii). 14 If the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments 15 does not meet or equal an impairment in the Listing, the fourth 16 step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the claimant 17 has sufficient residual functional capacity (“RFC”)1 to perform 18 her past work; if so, the claimant is not disabled and the claim 19 must be denied. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). The 20 claimant has the burden of proving she is unable to perform past 21 relevant work. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. If the claimant meets 22 that burden, a prima facie case of disability is established. 23 Id. If that happens or if the claimant has no past relevant 24 work, the Commissioner then bears the burden of establishing that 25 the claimant is not disabled because she can perform other 26 27 28 1 RFC is what a claimant can do despite existing exertional and nonexertional limitations. §§ 404.1545, 416.945; Cooper v. Sullivan, 880 F.2d 1152, 1155 n.5 (9th Cir. 1989). 4 1 substantial gainful work available in the national economy. 2 §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). That determination 3 comprises the fifth and final step in the sequential analysis. 4 §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lester, 81 F.3d at 828 n.5; Drouin, 966 5 F.2d at 1257. 6 B. 7 At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in The ALJ’s Application of the Five-Step Process 8 any substantial gainful activity since July 17, 2010. (AR 14.) 9 At step two, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had severe 10 impairments of “old fracture of right distal tibia, status post 11 internal fixation and old fracture of the right lateral 12 malleolus, status post internal fixation.” (Id.) Because the 13 treatment record did not show ongoing problems with the spine, 14 gluteal region, or right shoulder, the ALJ found the alleged 15 impairments in those areas to be nonsevere. (AR 15.) At step 16 three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff’s impairments did not 17 meet or equal a Listing. (Id.) At step four, the ALJ determined 18 that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform medium work with some 19 additional limitations.2 (AR 15-16.) Based on the VE’s 20 testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was able to perform her 21 past relevant work as a nurse’s assistant as generally performed. 22 (AR 19.) Thus, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. 23 (AR 20.) 24 25 26 27 28 2 “Medium work” involves “lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds.” §§ 404.1567(c), 416.967(c). 5 1 V. DISCUSSION 2 Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in assessing the opinion 3 of Dr. Terrance P. Flanagan and discounting Plaintiff’s 4 credibility. (J. Stip. at 3.) 5 A. 6 Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to provide an The ALJ Did Not Err in Assessing Dr. Flanagan’s Opinion 7 adequate basis for discounting Dr. Flanagan’s findings, 8 particularly with respect to her right shoulder. (J. Stip. at 9 4.) 10 11 1. Background On September 4, 2011, Dr. Flanagan performed a complete 12 orthopedic evaluation of Plaintiff at the request of the 13 California Department of Social Services. 14 (AR 279-84.) He noted Plaintiff’s complaints of pain in her neck, upper 15 back, lower back, both shoulders, left hand, right foot, right 16 ankle, and both hips. (AR 279; see also AR 280.) Dr. Flanagan 17 observed that Plaintiff sat and stood with normal posture, rose 18 from a chair without difficulty, had normal gait, and walked 19 without difficulty and without an assistive device. (AR 281.) 20 She had full range of motion in her neck with pain and had 21 tenderness in the cervical paraspinal muscles. 22 of motion in her back was limited by pain. (Id.) (Id.) Her range She also had 23 pain with rotation of her trunk and tenderness in the thoracic 24 and lumbar paraspinal muscles. 25 (Id.) Plaintiff had normal range of motion in her shoulders but 26 27 28 6 1 positive Hawkins and Neer signs3 on the right. (Id.) She had 2 normal range of motion in her hips but pain upon palpation of her 3 gluteal muscles. (AR 282.) She had pain with palpation and 4 range of motion in her right ankle. (Id.) Plaintiff 5 demonstrated motor strength of four out of five in bilateral hip 6 flexion, knee extension, ankle plantar and dorsiflexion, and 7 bilateral shoulder abduction, but Dr. Flanagan attributed her 8 diminished ability in these exercises to limited effort because 9 of pain rather than “a true neurologic result.” 10 motor strength was otherwise grossly normal. (AR 283.) (Id.) 11 leg-raise and other neurologic tests were negative. 12 rest of the examination was also normal. 13 Her Straight(Id.) The (See AR 281-83.) Dr. Flanagan diagnosed cervical, thoracic, and lumbar 14 myofascial strain, bilateral gluteal strain, right-rotator-cuff 15 tendinitis, and right-ankle and foot posttraumatic degenerative 16 changes.4 (Id.) He opined that Plaintiff could lift and carry 17 only 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently on the right 18 but 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently on the left. 19 (AR 284.) She could stand or walk and sit for six hours each in 20 21 3 Neer and Hawkins-Kennedy impingement tests are used to 22 diagnose impingements and tears in the rotator cuff. See Physical Therapist’s Guide to Rotator Cuff Tear, Am. Physical Therapy Ass’n, 23 http://www.moveforwardpt.com/symptomsconditionsdetail.aspx?cid=95 24 bd746b-b25f-46f5-8373-fb56c9f6b46a#.Uxo2Pz9dVc0 (last visited July 14, 2014). 25 26 27 28 4 For persons suffering myofascial pain syndrome, pressure on sensitive points in the muscles causes pain in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. See Diseases and Conditions: Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/ diseases-conditions/myofascial-pain-syndrome/basics/definition/CO N-20033195?p=1 (last updated Jan. 5, 2012). 7 1 an eight-hour day. (Id.) She could climb, stoop, kneel, and 2 crouch frequently and reach overhead on the right occasionally. 3 (Id.) 4 5 2. Applicable law Three types of physicians may offer opinions in Social 6 Security cases: (1) those who directly treated the plaintiff, (2) 7 those who examined but did not treat the plaintiff, and (3) those 8 who did not treat or examine the plaintiff. 9 830. Lester, 81 F.3d at A treating physician’s opinion is generally entitled to 10 more weight than that of an examining physician, and an examining 11 physician’s opinion is generally entitled to more weight than 12 that of a nonexamining physician. 13 Id. When a treating or examining doctor’s opinion is not 14 contradicted by other evidence in the record, it may be rejected 15 only for “clear and convincing” reasons. See Carmickle v. 16 Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1164 (9th Cir. 2008) 17 (quoting Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31). When a treating or 18 examining physician’s opinion is contradicted, the ALJ must 19 provide only “specific and legitimate reasons” for discounting 20 it. 21 22 Id. 3. Analysis The ALJ gave specific and legitimate reasons for giving only 23 “some weight” to Dr. Flanagan’s opinion. 24 (AR 19.) The ALJ found that Dr. Flanagan’s recommendation that 25 Plaintiff be restricted to light work with her right-upper 26 extremity was not supported by his findings. (AR 19.) Although 27 Dr. Flanagan noted positive Hawkins and Neer signs in Plaintiff’s 28 upper right shoulder, she had normal range of motion in both 8 1 shoulders. (AR 18; see AR 282.) And Dr. Flanagan dismissed her 2 apparent weakness when abducting her shoulders as attributable to 3 limited effort because of pain rather than indicative of a 4 neurological issue. (AR 18; see AR 283.) Plaintiff herself 5 reported that her right-shoulder pain was only intermittent but 6 worsened with overhead activity (AR 18; see AR 280), a limitation 7 the ALJ took into account by limiting Plaintiff to only 8 occasional overhead reaching with her right arm (see AR 16, 19), 9 just as Dr. Flanagan recommended. That Dr. Flanagan’s findings 10 did not support a restriction to light work with the right 11 shoulder but only a limitation on right-shoulder abduction was a 12 legitimate basis upon which to discount his opinion. See Thomas 13 v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 957 (9th Cir. 2002); Batson v. Comm’r 14 Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 2004); Chaudhry 15 v. Astrue, 688 F.3d 661, 671 (9th Cir. 2012) (ALJ need not accept 16 medical opinion that is inconsistent with clinical findings). 17 Moreover, the ALJ was entitled to rely on the vocational expert’s 18 testimony that it was not “reasonable that somebody would be able 19 to lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally on the left . . . 20 with just one arm, and then have a limitation to light . . . on 21 the other” (AR 50), as Dr. Flanagan had opined. Cf. Bayliss v. 22 Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1217 (9th Cir. 2005). 23 The ALJ also found that Dr. Flanagan’s findings were 24 inconsistent with the longitudinal medical evidence. 25 19.) (AR 14-15, Although Dr. Flanagan diagnosed myofascial strain, gluteal 26 strain, and right-rotator-cuff tendinitis, the ALJ found “very 27 little indication the claimant has [been] treated for these 28 impairments after the alleged onset date” and “no evidence of 9 1 ongoing, persistent treatment or problems associated with these 2 impairments after the alleged onset date.” (AR 14.) Even 3 Plaintiff’s attorney acknowledged that there was “minimal 4 evidence” and that the record was “one of the thinnest that I’ve 5 even been really a part of.” (AR 30.) The medical evidence of 6 back, neck, and shoulder pain consisted primarily of treatment 7 notes from chiropractor David G. Madison, which reflected only 8 intermittent treatment and few references to shoulder pain. 9 (See AR 245-78.) As the ALJ noted, the record contains little 10 diagnostic evidence pertaining to these ailments. (AR 18.) Dr. 11 Madison’s treatment notes contain occasional range-of-motion 12 measurements (see AR 250, 261) but primarily report Plaintiff’s 13 reports of her symptoms, any muscle tenderness or spasm, and the 14 manipulations he performed (see, e.g., AR 246-48, 250, 254-56, 15 259). And it appears Plaintiff did not mention neck, back, or 16 shoulder pain in either of her visits to Dr. Michele Martinez. 17 (See AR 238-39.) Plaintiff stated that she visited Dr. Martinez 18 rarely because she could not afford an office visit. (AR 60.) 19 Dr. Martinez’s notes reflect, however, that even when Plaintiff 20 did visit her, the doctor did not prescribe urgent or substantial 21 treatment. 22 (See AR 238-44.) Additionally, Plaintiff acknowledged that with chiropractic 23 care she was able to care for her mother, who weighed about 300 24 pounds, was bedridden, and relied upon Plaintiff to help her go 25 to the bathroom, sit up, and roll over. (AR 40.) Being able to 26 work with treatment is inconsistent with being disabled. See 27 §§ 404.1520(a)(iv), 416.920(a)(iv) (“If you can still do your 28 past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled.”); 10 1 Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1040 (9th Cir. 2008) 2 (response to conservative treatment undermined allegations of 3 disabling impairments). Indeed, Plaintiff stopped working only 4 because her mother died. 5 Moreover, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff’s pain was treated 6 conservatively, with chiropractic care and nonsteroidal 7 antiinflammatory medications. (AR 16-17; see AR 247, 251, 254, 8 259; but see AR 60 (Plaintiff reporting she took hydrocodone when 9 she could afford it).) Nor do her treatment notes indicate that 10 her pain had grown worse. (AR 17; see also AR 29, 39-40 11 (Plaintiff testifying that most of her problems had existed 12 before onset date and while she was working or caring for her 13 mother); AR 82 (Plaintiff reporting on Dec. 16, 2011, “no 14 worsening of medical condition”).) In fact, the treatment notes 15 suggest that Plaintiff improved with the conservative treatment 16 she received. (AR 14-15; see AR 248 (on Aug. 10 and 13, 2010, 17 Plaintiff reporting lumbosacral area was “a little better”); id. 18 (on Aug. 16, 2010, cancelling appointment because “doing 19 better”); AR 246 (on Aug. 20, 2010, reporting lumbosacral area 20 “still bothers me some but it’s better th[a]n before”); id. (on 21 Aug. 27, 2010, reporting lumbosacral area “not to[o] bad” but 22 “some” pain in upper back and collarbone); id. (on Sept. 3, 2010, 23 cancelling appointment because “doing better”).) 24 Neither of Plaintiff’s treating practitioners recommended 25 greater restrictions than those in the RFC; indeed, neither 26 Dr. Martinez’s nor Dr. Madison’s notes reflect significant 27 complaints of right-shoulder pain. 28 39, 246-78, 288.) (AR 17; see generally AR 238- Moreover, the state-agency physicians who 11 1 examined Plaintiff’s medical records opined that she was capable 2 of medium work, including with her right side, as long as she was 3 limited to only occasional overhead reaching with her right arm. 4 (AR 19; see AR 62-63, 84-85.) That Dr. Flanagan’s opinion that 5 Plaintiff could do only light work with her right arm was not 6 supported by his own findings or by Plaintiff’s treatment record 7 and was contradicted by the findings of state-agency physicians 8 were legitimate bases upon which to discount his opinion. See 9 §§ 404.1527(c)(4), 416.927(c)(4) (explaining that more weight 10 should be afforded to medical opinions that are consistent with 11 the record as a whole); Batson, 359 F.3d at 1195 (holding that 12 ALJ may discredit physicians’ opinions that are “unsupported by 13 the record as a whole . . . or by objective medical findings”). 14 Remand is not warranted on this basis. 15 B. 16 Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate The ALJ Did Not Err in Assessing Plaintiff’s Credibility 17 her credibility. 18 19 1. (J. Stip. at 11.) Applicable law An ALJ’s assessment of pain severity and claimant 20 credibility is entitled to “great weight.” See Weetman v. 21 Sullivan, 877 F.2d 20, 22 (9th Cir. 1989); Nyman v. Heckler, 779 22 F.2d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 1986). “[T]he ALJ is not required to 23 believe every allegation of disabling pain, or else disability 24 benefits would be available for the asking, a result plainly 25 contrary to 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A).” Molina v. Astrue, 674 26 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks 27 omitted). 28 In evaluating a claimant’s subjective symptom testimony, the 12 1 ALJ engages in a two-step analysis. 2 at 1035-36. See Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d “First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant 3 has presented objective medical evidence of an underlying 4 impairment [that] could reasonably be expected to produce the 5 pain or other symptoms alleged.” 6 marks omitted). Id. at 1036 (internal quotation If such objective medical evidence exists, the 7 ALJ may not reject a claimant’s testimony “simply because there 8 is no showing that the impairment can reasonably produce the 9 degree of symptom alleged.” Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1282 10 (9th Cir. 1996) (emphasis in original). When the ALJ finds a 11 claimant’s subjective complaints not credible, the ALJ must make 12 specific findings that support the conclusion. See Berry v. 13 Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1234 (9th Cir. 2010). 14 Absent affirmative evidence of malingering, those findings 15 must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for rejecting the 16 claimant’s testimony. Lester, 81 F.3d at 834. If the ALJ’s 17 credibility finding is supported by substantial evidence in the 18 record, the reviewing court “may not engage in second-guessing.” 19 Thomas, 278 F.3d at 959. 20 21 2. Analysis Contrary to Plaintiff’s contention, the ALJ provided clear 22 and convincing reasons for discounting her credibility. The ALJ 23 found her allegations of disabling pain to be inconsistent with 24 both the objective medical evidence and Plaintiff’s activities, 25 which he found indicated “an attempt by the claimant to 26 exaggerate the severity of her symptoms.” 27 (AR 17.) With respect to the medical evidence, as noted above, the 28 ALJ found that Plaintiff was prescribed only conservative 13 1 treatment for her back, neck, and shoulder ailments and had 2 improved with that treatment. Plaintiff’s reliance on and 3 response to conservative treatment is a clear and convincing 4 reason to discount her allegations of disabling impairments. See 5 Tommasetti, 533 F.3d at 1040 (holding that claimant’s response to 6 conservative treatment undermined his reports of disabling 7 symptoms); Parra, 481 F.3d at 751 (noting “evidence of 8 ‘conservative treatment’ is sufficient to discount a claimant’s 9 testimony regarding severity of an impairment”). Moreover, 10 Plaintiff’s treatment records contained little diagnostic 11 evidence of debilitating back, neck, or shoulder pain. And 12 although Dr. Flanagan opined that Plaintiff’s right shoulder 13 required a light-work limitation, there is little evidence of 14 shoulder treatment in the record, and neither her treating 15 practitioners nor the state-agency physicians found her to 16 require greater restrictions than those in her RFC.5 That 17 Plaintiff’s allegations of pain were inconsistent with the 18 medical evidence was a legitimate basis for discounting her 19 credibility. See Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1040 (in determining 20 credibility, ALJ may consider “whether the alleged symptoms are 21 consistent with the medical evidence”); see also Carmickle, 533 22 F.3d at 1161 (“Contradiction with the medical record is a 23 sufficient basis for rejecting the claimant’s subjective 24 testimony.”); Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 25 26 27 28 5 Claimant also testified that she had used a cane “very often” since 2007 because of the pain in her back and hips. (AR 47.) There’s no evidence, however, that the cane was prescribed to her by a medical provider, and she did not use it when examined by Dr. Flanagan or at the hearing. (Id.) 14 1 2005) (“Although lack of medical evidence cannot form the sole 2 basis for discounting pain testimony, it is a factor that the ALJ 3 can consider in his credibility analysis.”). 4 Plaintiff’s statements about her activities also undermined 5 her claims of disabling impairments. As the ALJ noted, although 6 Plaintiff alleged disability beginning in July 2010, her 7 impairments began significantly earlier, there is little if any 8 evidence that they worsened with time, and she continued working 9 despite them. (AR 17.) She reported to Dr. Flanagan that she 10 had suffered joint pain for approximately a decade and broke her 11 ankle in March 2007. (AR 280.) She testified, however, that she 12 left private employment as a nurse’s assistant in 2007 not 13 because of these impairments but in order to become a full-time 14 caregiver to her mother, a job she testified required comparable 15 exertion. (AR 16, 17-18; see AR 34-35, 38.) For instance, 16 Plaintiff testified that she spent all of her waking hours caring 17 for her mother, who was bedridden and weighed 300 pounds, 18 including lifting, turning, bathing, dressing, and feeding her. 19 (AR 16; see AR 38-42.) Thus, she was employed as a caregiver to 20 others and then became her mother’s full-time caregiver while 21 suffering almost all of the medical complaints she later alleged 22 made her disabled, and she stopped working only when her mother 23 died. (See AR 28-29 (Plaintiff testifying that her complaints 24 related to “body parts [that] were bothering [her] when [she was] 25 working”); AR 34-35 (testifying that she could have returned to 26 her prior position after her broken ankle healed); AR 39-40 27 (testifying that she suffered dizziness and fatigue while caring 28 for mother); AR 41, 277 (reporting to chiropractor that she could 15 1 not walk or stand a long time more than a year before she stopped 2 caring for her mother).) This was a proper basis to discount her 3 allegations of disabling impairments. Cf. Bruton v. Massanari, 4 268 F.3d 824, 828 (9th Cir. 2001) (as amended) (affirming adverse 5 credibility finding because claimant stopped working when laid 6 off, not when injured); Lobato v. Astrue, No. SACV 11-01337-MAN, 7 2012 WL 5992280, at *9 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 30, 2012) (finding that 8 work history was proper basis to discount credibility of 9 allegations when claimant was gainfully employed for years while 10 suffering from allegedly disabling impairments and no evidence 11 suggested she stopped working because of those impairments). 12 Moreover, the ALJ found, based on Plaintiff’s testimony, that she 13 likely “would have continued to provide this care had her mother 14 not passed away” in July 2010. (AR 16; see AR 41 (Plaintiff 15 complained of trouble standing and walking a year before she 16 stopped caring for her mother).) He found that this too 17 detracted from the credibility of Plaintiff’s claim that she 18 became disabled in July 2010. (See AR 16-17); see Morgan v. 19 Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 600 (9th Cir. 1999) 20 (“If a claimant is able to spend a substantial part of his day 21 engaged in pursuits involving the performance of physical 22 functions that are transferable to a work setting, a specific 23 finding as to this fact may be sufficient to discredit a 24 claimant’s allegations.”). 25 That Plaintiff’s “allegedly disabling impairments were 26 present at approximately the same level of severity prior to the 27 onset date” and that she worked “despite having the pain symptoms 28 and dizziness that [plagued] her” at the time of the hearing are 16 1 clear and convincing reasons for discounting her allegations. 2 (AR 17); see Bray v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 3 1227 (9th Cir. 2009) (upholding ALJ’s adverse credibility 4 determination in part because claimant “recently worked as a 5 personal caregiver for two years, and has sought out other 6 employment since then”); Tommasetti, 533 F.3d at 1039 (holding 7 that ALJ may consider many factors in weighing a claimant’s 8 credibility, including “ordinary techniques of credibility 9 evaluation, such as . . . inconsistent statements concerning the 10 symptoms . . . and . . . the claimant’s daily activities”). 11 This Court is limited to determining whether the ALJ 12 properly identified reasons for discrediting Plaintiff’s 13 credibility. Smolen, 80 F.3d at 1284. The inconsistencies 14 between Plaintiff’s allegations and both the medical evidence and 15 her activities as a caregiver were proper and sufficiently 16 specific bases for discounting her claims of disabling symptoms, 17 and the ALJ’s reasoning was clear and convincing. See 18 Tommasetti, 533 F.3d at 1039-40; Houghton v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. 19 Admin., 493 F. App’x 843, 845 (9th Cir. 2012). Because the ALJ’s 20 findings were supported by substantial evidence, this Court may 21 not engage in second-guessing. 22 See Thomas, 278 F.3d at 959. Remand is not warranted on this ground. 23 24 25 26 27 28 17 1 VI. CONCLUSION 2 Consistent with the foregoing, and pursuant to sentence four 3 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),6 IT IS ORDERED that judgment be entered 4 AFFIRMING the decision of the Commissioner and dismissing this 5 action with prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk serve 6 copies of this Order and the Judgment on counsel for both parties. 7 8 DATED: August 27, 2014 9 _____________________________ JEAN ROSENBLUTH U.S. Magistrate Judge 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 This sentence provides: “The [district] court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 18

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