United States District Court, D. Nevada
CHADD M. HILLEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
Ferenbach United States Magistrate Judge
matter involves Plaintiff Chadd Hillen's appeal from the
Commissioner's final decision denying Hillen's social
security benefits. Before the Court are Hillen's Motion
for Reversal and/or Remand (ECF No. 25) and the
Commissioner's Cross-Motion to Affirm (ECF No. 27). For
the reasons stated below, the Court recommends denying
Hillen's Motion and granting the Commissioner's
Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving
persons of property without due process of law. U.S. Const.
amend. V. Social security claimants have a constitutionally
protected property interest in social security benefits.
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976);
Gonzalez v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1197, 1203 (9th Cir.
1990). Where, as here, the Commissioner of Social Security
renders a final decision denying a claimant's benefits,
the Social Security Act authorizes the District Court to
review the Commissioner's decision. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); see also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b) (permitting the District Court to refer matters to a
U.S. Magistrate Judge).
District Court's review is limited. Brown-Hunter v.
Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (“[I]t
is usually better to minimize the opportunity for reviewing
courts to substitute their discretion for that of the
agency.” (quoting Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014))). The
Court examines the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether (1) the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards and (2) the decision is supported by
“substantial evidence.” Batson v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir.
2004). Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a
mere scintilla” of evidence. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). This means
such relevant “evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197
(1938); Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 740
F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014).
evidence supports more than one interpretation, the Court
must uphold the Commissioner's interpretation. (See
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
This means that the Commissioner's decision will be
upheld if it has any support in the record. See,
e.g., Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th
Cir. 1988) (stating that the court may not reweigh evidence,
try the case de novo, or overturn the
Commissioner's decision if the evidence preponderates
case, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ concluded Hillen did not
engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant
timeframe. (ECF No. 16 at 21). The ALJ found Hillen suffered
from medically determinable severe impairments consisting of
degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine, hypertension,
diabetes mellitus, psoriatic arthritis in multiple joints and
obesity, but the impairments did not meet or equal any
“listed” impairment under 20 C.F.R.. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 21-23). The ALJ
concluded Hillen retained the residual functional capacity to
perform the full range of sedentary work, which would allow
Hillen to perform past relevant work. (Id. at
not explicitly stated, Hillen appears to limit his appeal to
the ALJ's assessment of Hillen's residual functional
capacity. Hillen does not assert that he suffered from
additional medically determinable severe impairments or that
his impairments equaled a “listed” impairment.
Instead, Hillen appeals the ALJ's decision on two grounds
relating to Hillen's ability to work. First, Hillen
argues the ALJ failed to articulate specific and legitimate
reasons for rejecting the treating physician's opinion.
(Id. at 5). Second, Hillen argues the ALJ failed to
articulate clear and convincing reasons for rejecting
Hillen's testimony. (Id. at 11).
Discounting the Treating Physician's
concluding that Hillen is capable of performing sedentary
work, the ALJ gave little weight to the opinion of Dr. Allen,
the treating physician. (Id. at 25). Dr. Allen
opined that Hillen can sit for one hour within an eight-hour
workday,  stand and/or walk less than two hours in
an eight-hour workday, lift and/or carry up to ten pounds
occasionally, never climb or balance, and do only limited
reaching and handling. (Id. at 473-474).
asserts the ALJ's reasons for giving Dr. Allen's
opinion little weight “does not reach the level of
specificity required.” (ECF No. 15 at 6-8). Hillen
further argues the ALJ inserted his personal bias in
rejecting Dr. Allen's course of treatment and failed to
explain why the ALJ's interpretation, rather than the
treating physician's interpretation, was correct.
(Id. at 8-10).
treating physician's medical opinion as to the nature and
severity of an individual's impairment is entitled to
controlling weight when that opinion is well-supported and
not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the
record. See, e.g., Edlund v. Massanari, 253
F.3d 1152, 1157 (9th Cir. 2001).
ALJ opts to not give a treating physician's opinion
controlling weight, the ALJ must apply the factors set out in
20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)(i)-(ii) and (c)(3)-(6) in
determining how much weight to give the opinion, including
length of treatment relationship and frequency of
examination. The opinion of a treating physician is not
necessarily conclusive as to the existence of an impairment