Skipper v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Charles S. Coody on 12/16/2010. (cc, )
Skipper v. Astrue (CONSENT)
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA S O U T H E R N DIVISION D O N N A K. SKIPPER, P la in tif f , v. M IC H A E L J. ASTRUE, C O M M IS S IO N E R OF S O C IA L SECURITY, D e f e n d a n t. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
C IV IL ACTION NO. 1:09cv1006-CSC (WO)
M E M O R A N D U M OPINION I . Introduction T h e plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social S e c u rity Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., alleging that she was unable to work because of a d is a b ility. Her application was denied at the initial administrative level. The plaintiff then re q u e s te d and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Following th e hearing, the ALJ also denied the claim. The Appeals Council rejected a subsequent re q u e s t for review. The ALJ's decision consequently became the final decision of the C o m m is s io n e r of Social Security (Commissioner).1 See Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (1 1th Cir. 1986). The case is now before the court for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g ) and 1383(c)(3).
Pursuant to the Social Security Independence and Program Improvements Act of 1994, Pub.L. No. 103-296, 108 Stat. 1464, the functions of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to Social Security matters were transferred to the Commissioner of Social Security.
The parties have consented to the United States Magistrate Judge conducting all p ro c e e d in g s in this case and ordering the entry of final judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 6 3 6 (c )(1 ) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1. Based on the court's review of the record in this case and th e briefs of the parties, the court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner should b e affirmed. II. Standard of Review U n d e r 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to disability benefits when the p e rs o n is unable to e n g a g e in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically d e te rm in a b le physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period o f not less than 12 months . . . To make this determination,2 the Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential e v a lu a tio n process. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. (1 ) (2 ) (3 ) (4 ) (5 ) Is the person presently unemployed? Is the person's impairment severe? D o e s the person's impairment meet or equal one of the specific im p a irm e n ts set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1? Is the person unable to perform his or her former occupation? Is the person unable to perform any other work within the economy?
A n affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads either to the next q u e s tio n , or, on steps three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative a n s w e r to any question, other than step three, leads to a determination of "not d is a b le d ."
A "physical or mental impairment" is one resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986).3 T h e standard of review of the Commissioner's decision is a limited one. This court m u s t find the Commissioner's decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11 th Cir. 1997). "Substantial e v id e n c e is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant evidence a s a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. P e ra le s , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). A reviewing court may not look only to those parts of th e record which supports the decision of the ALJ but instead must view the record in its e n tire ty and take account of evidence which detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179 (11 th Cir. 1986). [ T h e court must] . . . scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the re a s o n a b le n e s s of the [Commissioner's] . . . factual findings . . . No similar p re s u m p tio n of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] . . . legal conclusions, in c lu d in g determination of the proper standards to be applied in evaluating c la im s . W a lk e r v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11 th Cir. 1987). I I I . The Issues A . Introduction. Plaintiff Donna Skipper ("Skipper") was 51 years old at the time o f the hearing before the ALJ. (R. 26-27). She has a high school education. (R. 28). Her p a s t relevant work experience includes work as a "sewing machine operator." (R. 20).
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026 (11th Cir. 1986) is a supplemental security income case (SSI). The same sequence applies to disability insurance benefits. Cases arising under Title II are appropriately cited as authority in Title XVI cases. See e.g. Ware v. Schweiker, 651 F.2d 408 (5th Cir. 1981) (Unit A).
Following the hearing, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff has severe impairments of " d e g e n e ra tiv e disc disease of the lumbar spine with herniated disc at L4-L5 disc and inflammatory changes at the left facet joint at the L4-L5 level." (R. 17). The ALJ concluded th a t the plaintiff's "ulnar nerve dysfunction" was not severe. (Id.) The ALJ concluded that S k ip p e r has the residual functional capacity to perform a "full range of light work," (id.), and th a t she could perform her past relevant work. (R. 20). Moreover, relying on the testimony o f a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Skipper could perform. (Id.). Consequently, the ALJ concluded th a t she was not disabled. (Id.). B. The Plaintiff's Claims. As stated by the plaintiff, the three issues for the Court's re v ie w are as follows. 1. T h e Commissioner's decision should be reversed, because the ALJ f a ile d to accord adequate weight to the opinion of Ms. Skipper's tre a tin g physician. T h e Commissioner's decision should be reversed, because the ALJ e rre d by failing to find Ms. Skipper's heel spur and diabetes as severe im p a irm e n ts . T h e Commissioner's decision should be reversed, because the ALJ f a ile d to find Ms. Skipper's testimony of subjective pain and limitations c re d ib le despite medical evidence that supports the testimony.
(Doc. # 12, Pl's Br. at 8-9). I V . Discussion A disability claimant bears the initial burden of demonstrating an inability to return to her past work. Lucas v. Sullivan, 918 F.2d 1567 (11 th Cir. 1990). In determining whether 4
the claimant has satisfied this burden, the Commissioner is guided by four factors: (1) o b j e c tiv e medical facts or clinical findings, (2) diagnoses of examining physicians, (3) s u b je c tiv e evidence of pain and disability, e.g., the testimony of the claimant and her family o r friends, and (4) the claimant's age, education, and work history. Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F .2 d 1251 (11th Cir. 1983). The court must scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine th e reasonableness of the ALJ's decision. See Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. The ALJ must also c o n s c ie n tio u s ly probe into, inquire of and explore all relevant facts to elicit both favorable a n d unfavorable facts for review. Cowart v. Schweiker, 662 F.2d 731, 735-36 (11 th Cir. 1 9 8 1 ). The Commissioner's regulations require that a written decision contain several e le m e n ts . The ALJ must state, with sufficient specificity, the reasons for his decision re f e re n c in g the plaintiff's impairments. Any such decision by the Commissioner of Social Security which involves a d e te rm in a tio n of disability and which is in whole or in part unfavorable to such in d iv id u a l shall contain a statement of the case, in understandable language, s e ttin g forth a discussion of the evidence, and stating the Commissioner's d e te r m in a tio n and the reason or reasons upon which it is based. 4 2 U.S.C. § 405(b)(1) (emphasis added). A . Rejection of Treating Physician's opinion. Skipper argues that the ALJ im p ro p e rly rejected her treating physician's opinion about her abilities and her `intractable' p a in . In essence, the plaintiff argues that if the ALJ accepted Dr. Wessner's opinions about h e r pain, she would be disabled. On April 21, 2007, Dr. Wessner completed a physical c a p a c itie s evaluation and a clinical assessment of pain. (R. 162-63). Dr. Wessner opined th a t Skipper had pain that was "intractable and virtually incapacitating," necessitating "bed 5
rest and/or medication." (R. 162). Dr. Wessner also indicated that the plaintiff could sit for 2 hours and walk or stand for 1 hour. (R. 163). She could rarely exert push/pull movements, d o fine or gross manipulation, climb, bend or reach. (Id.). She could never work around h a z a rd machinery but she could occasionally operate motor vehicles and work around dust, a lle rg e n s or fumes. (Id.). According to Dr. Wessner, Skipper would miss more than four d a ys per month from work due to her chronic low back and neck pain. (Id.) Of course, the law in this circuit is well-settled that the ALJ must accord "substantial w e ig h t" or "considerable weight" to the opinion, diagnosis, and medical evidence of the c la im a n t's treating physician unless good cause exists for not doing so. Jones v. Bowen, 810 F .2 d 1001, 1005 (11th Cir. 1986); Broughton v. Heckler, 776 F.2d 960, 961 (11 th Cir. 1985). T h e Commissioner, as reflected in his regulations, also demonstrates a similar preference for th e opinion of treating physicians. G e n e ra lly, we give more weight to opinions from your treating sources, since th e s e sources are likely to be the medical professionals most able to provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of your medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the o b je c tiv e medical findings alone or from reports of individual examinations, s u c h as consultive examinations or brief hospitalizations. L e w is v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing 20 CFR § 404.1527 (d)(2)). T h e ALJ's failure to give considerable weight to the treating physician's opinion is reversible e rro r. Broughton, 776 F.2d at 961-2; Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387 (11 th Cir. 1982). H o w e v e r, there are limited circumstances when the ALJ can disregard the treating p h ys ic ia n 's opinion. The requisite "good cause" for discounting a treating physician's
opinion may exist where the opinion is not supported by the evidence, or where the evidence s u p p o rts a contrary finding. See Schnorr v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 578, 582 (11 th Cir. 1987). Good c a u s e may also exist where a doctor's opinions are merely conclusory; inconsistent with the d o c to r's medical records; or unsupported by objective medical evidence. See Jones v. Dep't. o f Health & Human Servs., 941 F.2d 1529, 1532-33 (11th Cir. 1991); Edwards v. Sullivan, 9 3 7 F.2d 580, 584-85 (11th Cir. 1991); Johns v. Bowen, 821 F.2d 551, 555 (11 th Cir. 1987). T h e weight afforded to a physician's conclusory statements depends upon the extent to which th e y are supported by clinical or laboratory findings and are consistent with other evidence o f the claimant's impairment. Wheeler v. Heckler, 784 F.2d 1073, 1075 (11 th Cir. 1986). T h e ALJ "may reject the opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a contrary c o n c lu s io n ." Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1240 (11th Cir. 1983). The ALJ must a rtic u la te the weight given to a treating physician's opinion and must articulate any reasons f o r discounting the opinion. Schnorr, 816 F.2d at 581. After reviewing all the medical records, the ALJ rejected the opinion of Dr. Wessner b e c a u s e his medical records do not support the pain and physical evaluation forms "during th e relevant period of disability considered herein." (R. 20) (emphasis added). The ALJ's d e te rm in a tio n is supported by substantial evidence. Dr. Wessner's medical records do not s u p p o rt a conclusion that Skipper suffered from disabling pain prior to the expiration of her d is a b ility insured status. "Because [Skipper's] last insured date was December 31, ,
her DIB appeal requires a showing of disability on or before that date." Moore v. Barnhart 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005). It is not sufficient that Skipper had diagnoses prior
to the expiration of her insured status in 2003. Her conditions had to be disabling prior to D e c e m b e r 31, 2003, the date her insured status expired. "For DIB [disability insurance b e n e f its ] claims, a claimant is eligible for benefits where she demonstrates disability on or b e fo r e the last date for which she was insured." Moore, 405 F.3d at 1211 (emphasis added). See also Adamo v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 365 Fed. Appx. 209, 212 (11 th Cir. 2010) (" A disability insurance claimant must prove that he was disabled on or before the last date f o r which he was insured.") T h e Social Security Act is also clear in requiring that disability be proven to e x is t during the time that the claimant is insured within the meaning of the s p e c ia l insured status requirements of the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(3) and 4 2 3 (c ) ( 1 ) , . . . If a claimant becomes disabled After (sic) he has lost insured s ta tu s , his claim must be denied despite his disability. DeMandre v. Califano, 591 F.2d 1088, 1090 (5 th Cir. 1979).4 W h ile it appears that Skipper's medical conditions may have deteriorated since 2003, D r. Wessner's treatment notes simply do not support Skipper's contention that her conditions w e re severe enough in 2003 to deem her disabled.5 Based upon its review of the ALJ's
See Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), adopting as binding precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. Skipper concedes that Dr. Wessner's treatment records are not within the applicable time period but argues that the records "should be considered because Ms. Skipper's symptoms noted stem from her diagnoses prior to 2003, the date last insured." (Doc. # 12, Pl's Br. at 10). Even considering Dr. Wessner's medical records after 2003, the records do not support his opinion that Skipper suffered from unrelenting disabling pain. Dr. Wessner began treating Skipper in 1998. On December 31, 2001, Skipper complained to Dr. Wessner of sinus congestion and a `flare up' of low back pain. (R. 183). On January 14, 2002, Skipper reported that her back pain had lessened. She also had an appointment for an epidural on January 15, 2002. (R. 182). On January 23, 2002, Skipper reported that she had walked a mile; she felt well; and her back pain was "much better." (Id.) Skipper saw Dr. Wessner on February 25, April 18, and May 9, 2002 but she did not complain about back pain on those visits. (R. 181-80). On September 1, 2002, Skipper told Dr. Wessner she had not exercised because she was lazy, and she did not complain about back pain. (R.
decision and the objective medical evidence of record, the court concludes that the ALJ's re je c tio n of Dr. Wessner's opinion that Skipper suffers from intractable disabling pain is s u p p o rte d by substantial evidence. B. Severe Impairments. Next, Skipper argues that the ALJ erred when he failed to c o n s id e r her diabetes a severe impairment.6 According to Skipper, her diabetes caused her " c o n s ta n t leg numbness and pain," and she complained on numerous occasions that she was in "constant pain and unable to walk." (Doc. # 12, Pl's Br. at 13). The plaintiff's argument is a distortion of the medical records, and disingenuous at best. Skipper was diagnosed on J a n u a ry 23, 2002, with adult onset diabetes mellitus. (R. 182). She was prescribed m e d ic a tio n and instructed to diet, lose weight and exercise. (Id.) On January 14, 2002, her w e ig h t had increased by 7 pounds but her blood sugar was improved. (R. 181). She reported e a tin g well and feeling better. (Id.) On April 18, 2002, she had gained 3 pounds. Her diet w a s inconsistent and she was not walking. She did not complain about leg pain. (Id.) On M a y 9, 2002, Skipper had gained another 3 pounds and her blood sugar was elevated. She
179). Although Skipper saw Dr. Wessner several times during 2003, she did not report any problem with her back. On January 21, 2004, Skipper complained of low back pain and pain in her left leg "at times" but she declined prescription medication. (R. 175). It was not until May 5, 2005, that Skipper complained again about her back. At that time, she told Dr. Wessner that she was `unable to walk much due to chronic left sciatica." (R. 172). In her statement of the issue, Skipper refers to the ALJ's failure to find her heel spur a severe impairment. (Doc. # 12, Pl's Br. at 8). The burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence, and the argument of counsel is simply insufficient to meet this burden. See generally Road Sprinkler Fitters Local Union No. 669 v. Indep. Sprinkler Corp., 10 F.3d 1563, 1568 (11th Cir. 1994) (It is not the court's responsibility to seek out facts in support of the plaintiff's position.). Because Skipper makes no reference to heel spurs in her discussion, the court concludes that Skipper has abandoned this issue.
was directed to walk and lose weight. (R. 180). She did not complain of leg pain or an in a b ility to walk. (Id.) On September 11, 2002, Skipper's weight was up 4 pounds and her b lo o d sugar was elevated. Dr. Wessner noted that Skipper said she did not exercise because s h e was lazy. (R. 179). She did not voice any complaints about pain. (Id.) On January 21, 2003, she presented to Dr. Wessner complaining of sinus congestion. She was out of her medications. She did not complain about leg pain. Dr. Wessner precribed m e d ic a tio n s and instructed her to lose weight, diet and exercise. (R. 178). Skipper did not c o m p la in to Dr. Wessner about leg pain until January 21, 2004, at which time she reported le f t leg pain "at times," in conjunction with her low back pain. (R. 175). Moreover, she d e c lin e d a prescription for medication. (Id.) On June 15, 2004, Dr. Wessner noted that S k ip p e r was inconsistent with her diet and exercise. (R. 174). Although the medical records indicate that Skipper was diagnosed with diabetes in 2 0 0 2 , she has come forward with no evidence that her condition was disabling in 2003. In f a c t, the medical records demonstrate Skipper's noncompliance with regard to her diabetes. T h e record is replete with references to the plaintiff's failure to comply with her prescribed tre a tm e n t of diet and exercise for her diabetes. Contrary to her assertion that she could not w a lk due to constant pain, the records reveal that Skipper chose not to exercise or watch her d ie t. Nonetheless, Skipper has failed to demonstrate that her diabetes was a severe
im p a irm e n t during, or prior to the expiration of, her insured status. While the medical re c o rd s indicate that the plaintiff suffers from diabetes, the court concludes that Skipper has f a ile d to meet her burden of establishing that the ALJ's decision regarding the severity of that 10
impairment during the insured period was not supported by substantial evidence. C. Subjective pain and credibility determinations. Skipper contends that the ALJ "im properly rejected [her] testimony concerning the effects and resulting limitations imposed b y the combination of her medically determinable impairments." (Doc. # 12, Pl's Br. at 14). A s explained below, the ALJ did not fully credit Skipper's testimony. "Subjective pain te s ti m o n y supported by objective medical evidence of a condition that can reasonably be e x p e c te d to produce the symptoms of which the plaintiff complains is itself sufficient to s u s ta in a finding of disability." Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007 (11 th Cir. 1987). The E le v e n th Circuit has established a three-part test that applies when a claimant attempts to e s ta b lis h disability through her own testimony of pain or other subjective symptoms. Landry v . Heckler, 782 F.2d 1551, 1553 (11th Cir. 1986); see also Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221, 1 2 2 3 (11th Cir. 1991). This standard requires evidence of an underlying medical condition a n d either (1) objective medical evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged pain a risin g from that condition or (2) an objectively determined medical condition of such s e v e rity that it can reasonably be expected to give rise to the alleged pain. Landry, 782 F. 2 d at 1553. In this circuit, the law is clear. The Commissioner must consider a claimant's s u b je c tiv e testimony of pain if he finds evidence of an underlying medical condition and the o b je c tiv e ly determined medical condition is of a severity that can reasonably be expected to g iv e rise to the alleged pain. Mason v. Bowen, 791 F.2d 1460, 1462 (11 th Cir. 1986); Landry, 7 8 2 F.2d at 1553. Thus, if the Commissioner fails to articulate reasons for refusing to credit a claimant's subjective pain testimony, the Commissioner has accepted the testimony as true 11
as a matter of law. This standard requires that the articulated reasons must be supported by s u b s ta n tia l reasons. If there is no such support then the testimony must be accepted as true. Hale, 831 F.2d at 1012. A f te r reciting Skipper's testimony, and prior to reviewing the medical evidence, the A L J acknowledged that Skipper has impairments that would reasonably be expected to p ro d u c e the type of pain about which she complains but the ALJ then concluded that S k ip p e r's statements "concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these s ym p to m s are not credible to the extent they are inconsistent with the residual functional c a p a c ity assessment for the reasons explained below." (R. 19). The ALJ then considered the m e d ic a l evidence of record, and discredited Skipper's testimony as follows. Records from Dr. John Wessner show treatment for various ailments, in c lu d in g hypertension, sinusitis and low back pain. On January 14 2002, she re p o rte d that her low back pain had lessened. On January 23, 2002, the c la im a n t reported walking a mile the day before and stated that she felt well. On February 25, 2002, she reported feeling well. Several visits were for sinus c o n g e s t i o n . On January 21, 2003, the claimant was out of blood sugar and b lo o d pressure pills. She was prescribed Allegra D, Zestril, Glucophage, A u g m e n tin , micronase and another medication. She was also taking some o v e r the counter medications. On January 12, 2004 she reported low back pain ra d ia tin g into the left leg at times but declined a prescription (Exhibit 10F). The medical evidence as a whole does not indicate that the claimant's im p a irm e n ts are so significant as to preclude light work activity. Although she is credible as to having degenerative disc disease, there is no evidence that she h a s ulnar nerve dysfunction. Furthermore, records from Dr. Wessner indicated th a t at one point the claimant reported low back pain to the doctor who offered a prescription that she declined. On several visits the claimant reported that s h e felt well. There were no indications in the office visits during the period in question that the claimant was in significant pain or what limitations she h a d . A more recent pain questionnaire and residual functional capacity is not s u p p o rte d by Dr. Wessner's office notes during the relevant period of disability 12
considered herein. Additionally, the claimant led the undersigned to believe th a t she quit her job following an on-the-job injury if her back. However, the S ta te agency reported that she stopped working to take care of a special needs c h ild that she was adopting. Finally, the undersigned finds that the claimant's c re d ib ility as to disability is diminished because, after further questioning at th e hearing, the claimant admitted that she did not retire from her job as a s e w in g machine operator but quit because she was adopting a sone who had s p e c ia l needs and to take care of him. The Administrative Law Judge is convinced that the claimant is trying to p re s e n t herself in a worse light than is actually the case. There is no s u p p o rtin g evidence in the file to indicate that the claimant's impairments were s o severe to prevent light work activity during the relevant period of disability c o n s id e re d herein. (R . 19-20) W h e re an ALJ decides not to credit a claimant's testimony, the ALJ must articulate s p e c if ic and adequate reasons for doing so, or the record must be obvious as to the credibility f in d in g . Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1561-62 (11th Cir. 1995); Jones, 941 F.2d at 1532 (a r tic u la te d reasons must be based on substantial evidence). If proof of disability is based o n subjective evidence and a credibility determination is, therefore, critical to the decision, " `th e ALJ must either explicitly discredit such testimony or the implication must be so clear a s to amount to a specific credibility finding.'" Foote, 67 F.3d at 1562, quoting Tieniber, 720 F .2 d at 1255 (although no explicit finding as to credibility is required, the implication must b e obvious to the reviewing court). The ALJ has discretion to discredit a plaintiff's s u b je c tiv e complaints as long as he provides "explicit and adequate reasons for his decision." Holt, 921 F.2d at 1223. Relying on the treatment records and objective evidence, the ALJ c o n c lu d e d that the plaintiff's underlying conditions are capable of giving rise to some pain
and other limitations, but not to the extent described by the plaintiff. Consequently, he d is c re d ite d the plaintiff's testimony that she suffers from disabling, intractable pain. After a careful review of the record, the court concludes that the ALJ's reasons for discrediting the p la in tif f 's testimony were clearly articulated and supported by substantial evidence. The medical records support the ALJ's conclusion that while Skipper has conditions th a t could reasonably be expected to produce pain, Skipper was not entirely credible in her d e s c rip tio n of that pain. For example, Skipper testified that she was not taking any
p re s c rip tio n pain medication but she sometimes took over the counter medication such as A le v e . (R. 29). The medical records indicate that she declined prescription medication on s e v e ra l occasions. (R. 171 &175). She further testified that "[i]f my back flares up, I call [ D r. Wessner] automatically and he knows that problem, so we could either issue medicines o v e r-th e -c o u n te r or either come in for the epidural or whatever his plan is for that." (R. 303 1 ). The medical records do not support her testimony. The medical records indicate that S k ip p e r had only two epidural steroid shots, on March 1, 1999 and January 15, 2002. (R. 1 5 4 -5 5 ). On September 27, 2006, Skipper told Dr. Wessner that she had no need for epidural s h o ts since she became a housewife. Finally, Skipper testified that she quit her because she w a s adopting a special needs child, not because of her pain or an on-the-job injury. (R. 373 8 ). Skipper's own testimony militates against her credibility. Thus, the court concludes that th e Commissioner's decision to discredit Skipper's testimony is supported by substantial e v id e n c e . T o the extent that the plaintiff is arguing that the ALJ should have accepted her 14
testimony regarding her pain, as the court explained, the ALJ had good cause to discount her te s tim o n y. This court must accept the factual findings of the Commissioner if they are s u p p o rte d by substantial evidence and based upon the proper legal standards. Bridges v. B o w e n , 815 F.2d 622 (11 th Cir. 1987). V . Conclusion T h e court has carefully and independently reviewed the record and concludes that s u b s ta n tia l evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff is not disabled. Thus, the c o u rt concludes that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence a n d is due to be affirmed. A separate order will be entered. D o n e this 16th day of December 2010.
/s/Charles S. Coody CHARLES S. COODY U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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?