Nathaniel T Shasteen v. Carolyn W Colvin

Filing 20

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky. (ib)

Download PDF
O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 NATHANIEL T. SHASTEEN, Plaintiff, 12 13 14 15 16 vs. CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CASE NO. ED CV 13-02376 RZ MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 17 Plaintiff Nathaniel T. Shasteen, who has a bad back, asserts that the 18 Administrative Law Judge wrongly discounted his complaints of pain, while determining 19 that he was not disabled. Plaintiff asserts no other errors. 20 The law in this circuit is familiar, and settled. If a claimant alleges “excess 21 pain” and produces medical evidence of an impairment which reasonably could be 22 expected to produce the pain alleged, then the Administrative Law Judge may reject the 23 claims of pain only if he makes specific findings stating clear and convincing reasons for 24 doing so. Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc); Smolen v. Chater, 25 80 F.3d 1273 (9th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff did present evidence of impairments to his back, 26 and the Administrative Law Judge did find that he had such impairments. [AR 12] Strains 27 to one’s back, and degenerative joint disease, can produce pain, so the only issue is whether 28 1 the Administrative Law Judge acted within his authority in discounting the extent of the 2 pain that Plaintiff claimed. 3 The Administrative Law Judge identified a number of factors that legitimately 4 impeached Plaintiff’s assertions about the extent of his pain. Objective medical evidence, 5 in the form of conclusions of a physician following an examination, suggested a greater 6 capability — and therefore a greater tolerance for pain — than Plaintiff asserted. [AR 258- 7 63, cited by the Administrative Law Judge, AR 17-18] Objective evidence alone, of 8 course, cannot disprove an assertion of excess pain, for excess pain is, by definition, that 9 which exceeds norms, but objective evidence is a relevant factor that can combine with 10 other factors to justify discrediting Plaintiff. Rollins v. Massanari, 261 F. 3d 853, 857 (9th 11 Cir. 2001). 12 Added to the inconsistency with the objective evidence were other credibility 13 determinations that the Administrative Law Judge could properly make. These included 14 Plaintiff’s having a spotty prior work history, which suggested a motive other than pain for 15 not working; a criminal record which impeached his veracity; his own inconsistent 16 statements about his capability; and his failure to undergo treatment commensurate with 17 the claimed level of pain. These were all factors the Administrative Law Judge was 18 authorized to consider, for normal techniques of assessing credibility are appropriate. Fair 19 v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 604 n.5 (9th Cir. 1989) (normal techniques, including evaluating 20 reputation as a liar); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2002) (work history, 21 inconsistent statements); Bunnell, supra, 947 F.2d at 346 (relevant character evidence, 22 unexplained absence of treatment). The fact that there may be other interpretations of the 23 evidence that are reasonable does not mean that the Administrative Law Judge erred. As 24 long as the interpretation is reasonable and is supported by substantial evidence, it is not 25 the role of the Court to second-guess it. Rollins v. Massanari, supra, 261 F. 3d at 857. 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// -2- 1 2 The Administrative Law Judge did not err. Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed. 3 4 DATED: October 8, 2014 5 6 7 RALPH ZAREFSKY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -3-

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?