9th Circuit decision strongly reaffirms standard for assessing pain in disability cases

Burrell v. Colvin, No. 12-16673 (9th Cir. December 31, 2014), 2015 DJDAR 17 (January 2, 2015)download film John Wick: Chapter 2

This is another strong 9th Circuit Social Security disability opinion upholding the standards for assessing pain testimony set forth in Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc), requiring an ALJ to set forth “specific, clear and convincing reasons” for rejecting a claimant’s pain testimony after the claimant has provided objective evidence of an impairment that might reasonably cause the complained-of pain. Here the majority sets aside the ALJ’s denial of the claim for failure to specify which specific testimony was undermined by which specific medical evidence: “We may not take a general finding — an unspecified conflict between claimant’s daily activities and her reports to doctors — and comb the administrative record to find specific conflicts.”

Although the majority sets aside the denial of benefits for the ALJ’s deficient findings on credibility, and for failure to give “specific and legitimate reasons” for rejecting the treating doctor’s assessment, the case is remanded for a new hearing due to the majority’s “serious doubt” on the ultimate issue of disability. In dissent, Judge Schroeder would simply remand for payment of benefits.