Social Security Disability Applicant’s Appeal Rejected by the Ninth Circuit

In an unpublished opinion, a Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the findings of both a federal magistrate judge and an administrative law judge (ALJ) regarding an Arizona man’s disability status. The appellate decision found that the lower courts’ determinations that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act were supported by substantial evidence.

The magistrate judge’s decision explained the case’s history, beginning in February 2011 when the plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability from 2006. The opinion explained that the plaintiff suffered from daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy.

The magistrate judge reviewed the ALJ’s five-step analysis in light of the plaintiff’s contentions that the court erred in its consideration of medical evidence and in particular, the plaintiff’s own testimony. In sum, the magistrate judge found that the ALJ provided “sufficient, clear and convincing reasons for discounting Plaintiff’s symptom testimony,” including evidentiary inconsistency and evidence indicating that his narcolepsy was successfully treated.

The appellate panel similarly held that the ALJ was correct in discounting the plaintiff’s testimony. It also found that while the ALJ may have erred by failing to explicitly address certain physician testimony, the error was harmless in view of its other “specific and legitimate reasons for discounting [the physician’s] similar assessments.” The Ninth Circuit thus affirmed the case in favor of Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, and denied the plaintiff’s application for disability insurance benefits.

The plaintiff is represented by Slepian Law Office and the defendant by counsel from the Social Security Administration.