Curren v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 12/16/2015. (PSM)
2015 Dec-16 AM 10:28
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Commissioner of Social Security,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The plaintiff, Timothy Curren, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
his application for a Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Mr. Curren timely
pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies and the decision of the
Commissioner is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Mr. Curren was forty-seven years old at the time of the Administrative Law
Judge’s (“ALJ’s”) decision. (Tr. at 129.) He graduated high school, and his past
work experiences include employment as an x-ray technician, parts fabricator and
molder, door installer, and inspector. (Tr. at 50, 52, 175-76, 182, 206.) Mr. Curren
claims that he became disabled on January 29, 2009, due to neck surgery and back
problems. (Tr. at 175.)
The Social Security Administration has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled and thus
eligible for DIB or SSI. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Doughty v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in
order until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if no finding is made,
the analysis will proceed to the next step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to determine whether the
plaintiff is engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”).
See id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the
evaluator moves on to the next step.
The second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined severity of
the plaintiff’s medically determinable physical and mental impairments. See id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An individual impairment or combination of
impairments that is not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy the durational
requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding
of not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The
decision depends on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart v.
Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971) (concluding that “substantial medical
evidence in the record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff was not
Similarly, the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff’s impairment or combination of impairments meets or is medically equal
to the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed
impairment and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509
and 416.909 are satisfied, the evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the plaintiff’s impairment or combination of impairments does not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment, the evaluator must determine the plaintiff’s
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to the fourth step. See id.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). The fourth step requires the evaluator to determine
whether the plaintiff has the RFC to perform the requirements of his past relevant
See id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
If the plaintiff’s
impairment or combination of impairments does not prevent him from performing
his past relevant work, the evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See id.
The fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the plaintiff’s
RFC, age, education, and work experience in order to determine whether the
plaintiff can make an adjustment to other work. See id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can perform other work, the evaluator will find
him not disabled. Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff
cannot perform other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g), 416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.920(g).
Applying the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Mr. Curren
was insured through the date of her decision. (Tr. at 13.) She further determined
that Mr. Curren had not engaged in SGA since the alleged onset of his disability.
(Id.) According to the ALJ, Plaintiff’s degenerative disc disease, hypertension,
obesity, osteoarthritis, and herniated nucleus pulposus are considered “severe”
based on the requirements set forth in the regulations. (Id.) However, she found
that these impairments did not meet, nor were medically equal to, any of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) The ALJ found
that Mr. Curren has the following RFC: sedentary work except he can carry 10
pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently, sit six hours in an eighthour workday, and stand and walk two hours in an entire eight-hour day; he cannot
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; he
can occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, knee and crawl; he cannot reach overhead;
he should avoid all exposure to workplace hazards (e.g., dangerous machinery,
unprotected heights); he should avoid concentrated exposure to temperature
extremes, wetness, humidity and vibration; he should avoid prolonged or repetitive
rotation, flexion and hyperextension of the neck; he can frequently finger and
handle and occasionally push and/or pull; and he can maintain attention and
concentration for two-hour periods at a time and perform simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks. (Id. at 14.)
According to the ALJ, Mr. Curren is unable to perform any of his past
relevant work, he is a “younger individual,” and he has a high school education, as
those terms are defined by the regulations. (Id. at 22.) She determined that
“[t]ransferability of job skills is not  material to the determination of disability.”
(Id.) Because Plaintiff cannot perform the full range of sedentary work, the ALJ
enlisted a vocational expert (“VE”) for finding that there are a significant number
of jobs in the national economy that Mr. Curren is capable of performing, such as
inspector, table worker, and information clerk. (Id.) The ALJ concluded her
findings by stating that Plaintiff “has not been under a ‘disability,’ as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from January 29, 2009, through the date of this
decision.” (Id. at 23.)
Standard of Review
This Court’s role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act
is a narrow one. The scope of its review is limited to determining (1) whether there
is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Stone
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 544 F. App’x 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)). This Court gives
deference to the factual findings of the Commissioner, provided those findings are
supported by substantial evidence, but applies close scrutiny to the legal
conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
Nonetheless, this Court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210
(11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir.
“The substantial evidence standard permits administrative decision
makers to act with considerable latitude, and ‘the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative
agency’s finding from being supported by substantial evidence.’” Parker v. Bowen,
793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J., dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed.
Mar. Comm’n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if this Court finds that the
proof preponderates against the Commissioner’s decision, it must affirm if the
decision is supported by substantial evidence. Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400 (citing Martin
v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
However, no decision is automatic, for “despite th[e] deferential standard
[for review of claims], it is imperative that th[is] Court scrutinize the record in its
entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached.” Bridges v.
Bowen, 815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Arnold v. Heckler, 732 F.2d 881,
883 (11th Cir. 1984)). Moreover, failure to apply the correct legal standards is
grounds for reversal. See Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir. 1984).
The single basis of Mr. Curren’s request for judicial review of the
Commissioner’s denial of his application for DIB is grounded in his belief that “the
ALJ did not properly assess . . . [his] credibility consistent with the regulations.”
(Doc. 17 at 5.)
Mr. Curren complained of chronic moderately severe neck and back pain.
(Tr. at 38). He testified that he is in pain all of the time and is limited in what he
can do. (Tr. at 34). According to Plaintiff, he has to lie down “a lot” because of his
pain. (Id.) He explained that his pain continued after his surgeries and physical
therapy and he then initiated pain management. (Tr. at 36). Plaintiff further
testified that he did not receive relief from a pain pump that was implanted. (Tr. at
37). Plaintiff rated his pain an 8 out of 10 before medication and a 6 to 7 with
medication. (Tr. at 38). Plaintiff testified that standing, sitting, bending or lifting a
milk jug worsens his pain. (Tr. at 40, 41).
The Social Security Act provides that “[a]n individual’s statement as to pain
or other symptoms shall not alone be conclusive evidence of disability . . . .” See 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(a), 416.929(a) (same).
“[T]here must be medical signs and findings . . . which show the existence of a
medical impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which could reasonably be expected to produce pain and other
symptoms alleged and which, when considered with all evidence required to be
furnished . . . would lead to a conclusion that the individual is under a disability.”
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529, 416.929. Accordingly, an
ALJ is not required to merely accept a claimant’s subjective allegations of pain or
other symptoms and may properly consider the claimant’s credibility when making
a determination of disability. See Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1225-26 (11th
When a claimant attempts to establish disability through his or her own
testimony of pain or other subjective symptoms, the ALJ applies what the Eleventh
Circuit calls the “pain standard.” See Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1210 (citing Holt v.
Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221, 1223 (11th Cir. 1991)). The pain standard reflects the
language of 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529 and 416.929. See Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1225-26.
Although the ALJ is not required to recite the pain standard, the ALJ must make
findings that indicate that the standard was applied. See id. at 1226-27. If, as in the
instant case, a claimant establishes an impairment that could reasonably be
expected to produce the alleged symptoms, the ALJ must evaluate the intensity and
persistence of those symptoms and their effect on the claimant’s ability to work.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(1), 416.929(c)(1); Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1225-26. In
addition to the objective medical evidence, the ALJ considers factors such as (i)
treatment history, (ii) the type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any
medications taken, (iii) treatment taken other than medications, (iv) any other
measures used for relief of pain or other symptoms, (v) any precipitating and
aggravating factors, (vi) medical source opinions, (vii) statements by the claimant
and others about pain and other symptoms, (viii), information about prior work,
and (ix) evidence of daily activities. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(1)-(3),
416.929(c)(1)-(3). The ALJ also appropriately considers inconsistencies in the
evidence, and the extent to which there are conflicts between the claimant’s
statements and the rest of the evidence, including the claimant’s history, signs and
laboratory findings, and statements by treating and non-treating sources or by other
persons about how the symptoms affect the claimant. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1529(c)(4), 416.929(c)(4). The regulations do not require, however, that the
ALJ specifically discuss every section 404.1529/416.929 factor in evaluating a
claimant’s credibility. See Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1211 (concluding ALJ “adequately
explained his reasons” for discrediting claimant’s pain testimony where “ALJ
considered [claimant’s] activities of daily living, the frequency of his symptoms,
and the types and dosages of his medications”).
Thus, the ALJ is permitted to discredit the claimant’s subjective testimony
of pain and other symptoms if he articulates explicit and adequate reasons for doing
so. Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1225; see also Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-7p, 1996
WL 374186 (1996) (“[T]he adjudicator must carefully consider the individual’s
statements about symptoms with the rest of the relevant evidence in the case
record in reaching a conclusion about the credibility of the individual’s
statements.”). Although the Eleventh Circuit does not require explicit findings as
to credibility, “the implication must be obvious to the reviewing court.” Dyer, 395
F.3d at 1210. “[P]articular phrases or formulations” do not have to be cited in an
ALJ’s credibility determination, but it cannot be a “broad rejection which is “not
enough to enable [the district court or this Court] to conclude that [the ALJ]
considered her medical condition as a whole.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).
In this case, the ALJ recited the applicable standards for assessing subjective
complaints and found that Mr. Curren’s statements concerning the “intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects” of his symptoms were not “entirely credible.”
(Tr. at 16.) Specifically, the ALJ discredited Mr. Curren’s subjective complaints
of pain because they: (1) were not supported by the record of his treatment history,
(2) were well-controlled by his medications, and (3) were not consistent with his
reported daily activities. (Tr. at 15-16.) The Court is satisfied that the ALJ’s
reasons for discrediting Mr. Curren’s subjective complaints of pain are explicit and
that substantial evidence in the record exists to support the credibility
The ALJ first discredited Mr. Curren’s subjective complaints of pain
because his complaints were not supported by the record of his treatment history.
A review of Plaintiff’s treatment history is warranted here. With regard to his
treatment for his back and neck pain, the ALJ considered that on January 29, 2009,
Plaintiff’s alleged onset date, Plaintiff slipped at work, resulting in contusions to his
head and elbow and a back sprain. (Tr. at 16, 384). His elbow was placed in a splint,
and, a week later, he complained of only mild neck and back pain. (Tr. at 381, 383).
He had mild cervical tenderness and restricted range of motion in his right elbow,
but otherwise a physical examination revealed no significant abnormalities. (Tr. at
381). On February 5, 2009, a CT scan of his cervical spine showed disc space
narrowing at C5-C6 and C6-C7 and mild straightening of the cervical lordosis. (Tr.
at 16, 381). X-rays of his lumbar spine showed osteoarthritis, disc degeneration, and
cystic changes on the proximal right femur. (Tr. at 16, 381). On February 12, 2009,
Plaintiff had good mobility in his right elbow with mild localized tenderness. (Tr. at
380). He had almost returned to his full range of motion and reported thoracic and
lumbar pain without radiation; and his doctor returned him to full work duties. (Tr.
Subsequently, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff complained of worsening neck
and back pain, and MRIs of his cervical spine showed posterior disc bulging at C5C6, C6-C7, and C7-T1. (Tr. at 16, 399-400, 467, 470). Plaintiff had a discectomy
and cervical fusion surgery in April 2009. (Tr. at 16, 387-89). After his surgery,
Plaintiff had nerve blocks and reported a 90% reduction in his neck pain. (Tr. at 16,
423, 428, 453-54, 473). X-rays of his cervical spine from July 2009 showed surgical
changes but no other significant findings. (Tr. at 19, 728). On physical examination
in November 2009, he had increased range of motion in his cervical spine, and
motor and sensory exams were within normal limits. (Tr. at 454). After Plaintiff
complained of severe neck pain in December 2009, and a CT scan of his cervical
spine showed pseudoarthritis at the levels where he previously had undergone
surgery, Dr. More, his neurosurgeon, opined that his body had rejected the
compressed bone. (Tr. at 474-75).
The ALJ discussed that later that month Plaintiff had exploration of cervical
fusion with removal of anterior cervical plate and placement of four screws. (Tr. at
16, 303-05). Post-surgery, x-rays of his cervical spine from March 2010 indicated
moderate disc space narrowing at C6-C7 with spondylosis at C4-C5. (Tr. at 16,
394). An MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine from March 2010 showed only moderate
degenerative disc disease at L3-L4 and mild disc desiccation at L4-L5 and L5-S1
with no evidence of herniation or stenosis. (Tr. at 16, 406-07). A CT scan in May
2010 of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine showed mild degenerative changes at all levels.
(Tr. at 439). At that time, Plaintiff told Dr. More that his neck still felt “a bit sore,”
he had some upper extremity weakness and numbness in his hands, but he was
doing “very well” overall. (Tr. at 455). While he also reported worsening of his low
back pain, on physical examination, Plaintiff was not tender to palpation; there was
no paraspinal muscle spasms; he had no sensory deficits; he could heel and toe
walk; his motor strength in his lower extremities was at least 4/5; and he had
reduced range of motion in his lumbar spine. (Tr. at 16, 456). In June 2010, a trial
dorsal spinal cord stimulator was placed, and Plaintiff reported a 40% reduction in
pain. (Tr. at 17, 460-61).
The ALJ also considered that Plaintiff saw Drs. Krauss and Doleys, pain
management specialists, in March 2011. (Tr. at 17, 488, 508-14). Plaintiff reported
to Dr. Doleys that he experienced primarily lower back pain aggravated by cold
weather, coughing, sneezing, sitting for an hour, emotional upset, and “any and all
activity.” (Tr. at 17, 488, 489). However, on physical examination, he was not in
acute pain, and, in fact, he rated his current pain as 0 out of 10; he had a normal
gait; and he reported that his “functional level” of pain was 4-5 out of 10, although
his pain in the past had ranged from 7-11 out of 10 [sic]. (Tr. at 17, 491). After
Plaintiff was detoxed from opioids, Dr. Krauss placed an intrathecal catheter for
pain control in June 2011. (Tr. at 17, 495, 501, 503, 520, 555-56). Plaintiff reported
that his pain remained in the moderate range. (Tr. at 669, 672, 674.) The catheter
was removed in July 2011. (Tr. at 574). Subsequently, Dr. Krauss restarted oral
pain medications, and Plaintiff reported a reduction in his pain and significant
improvement in his physical functioning. (Tr. at 19, 608, 612, 616, 622, 625, 628,
631, 637, 640, 643, 649, 654, 659). On physical examination in December 2011, he
had moderate muscle spasms, full range of motion with only mild to moderate pain,
straight leg raising tests elicited no pain, and his pain was moderate. (Tr. at 19, 654,
656). In November 2012, he had moderate muscle spasms, full range of motion
with only mild to moderate pain, normal motor strength, and his pain was again
moderate. (Tr. at 19, 619-20).
The ALJ also considered that treatment notes from Dr. Avasar, Plaintiff’s
primary care provider, showed that between April 2010 and May 2012, Plaintiff
received periodic medication therapy for his neck and back pain. (Tr. at 19, 732-74).
Dr. Avasar stated that a physical examination in October 2009 was within normal
limits. (Tr. at 745). The ALJ observed that Plaintiff had only sought emergency
care for his lower back pain once, in September 2012. (Tr. at 17, 719-26).
In addition, the ALJ considered the evidence from the consultative
examiners. For instance, in September 2011, Dr. Elmore, a neurologist, found that
Plaintiff did not require an assistive device to ambulate, he had normal motor
strength, he could heel, toe, and tandem walk, his sensation was intact, and a
straight leg raise test was negative. (Tr. at 580-81). Dr. Elmore concluded that the
neurologic examination was essentially normal and that there was no evidence of
radiculopathy and no residual neurologic or neuropsychiatric disability resulting
from his accident. (Tr. at 17, 581-82). The ALJ also considered that Plaintiff was
examined by Dr. Canario at the request of his worker’s compensation insurance
company. (Tr. at 18). On physical examination, Dr. Canario found negative
Spurling’s test; normal reflexes, motor strength, and sensation; paravertebral
tenderness; and reduced flexion of the lumbosacral spine, reduced lateral bending,
and reduced rotation, but normal extension. (Tr. at 18, 602). Dr. Canario noted
that MRIs showed degenerative changes in the cervical and lumbar spine but no
herniated discs and estimated that Plaintiff had a 15% disability for his cervical spine
and 2.5% disability for his back sprain and that he was capable of light work. (Tr. at
The ALJ also noted that in November 2012, Plaintiff was consultatively
examined by Dr. Romeo. (Tr. at 18, 364-67). On physical examination, Dr. Romeo
found that Plaintiff had a normal gait and did not require an assistive device to
ambulate; he could stoop, crouch, kneel, tandem walk, and heel/toe walk without
difficulty; he had mild hypertrophic deformity of the right knee but otherwise
normal joints; there were no signs of synovitis, tenderness, or effusions in his
joints; he had no spasms in his neck or back; he had no deformities of the back; he
had normal motor strength, grip strength, manipulation, and sensation; a straight
leg raise test was negative; his manual dexterity was good; Romberg sign was
negative; he had decreased flexion in his knees and decreased range of motion of
the cervical spine but normal range of motion in his arms, shoulders, lumbar spine,
hips. (Tr. at 18-91, 365-69). X-rays showed status post anterior fusion of the
cervical spine with stable findings and well preserved disc space. (Tr. at 370). Dr.
Romeo opined that Plaintiff could perform a range of light work. (Tr. at 19, 371-76).
The above review of the evidence considered by the ALJ illustrates the
thorough review the ALJ engaged in to assess whether the medical records
supported Mr. Curren’s subjective complaints of pain. The Court is satisfied that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision because the records indicate that
although Plaintiff certainly complained of and was treated for pain, it appears that
the pain was well-maintained with treatment. For example, the ALJ specifically
noted that although at the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that Dr. Avasar
prescribed medication for his hypertension and Xanax for his depression (Tr. at
43); Plaintiff had not seen Dr. Avasar since May 2012, a year prior to the
administrative hearing. (Tr. at 15, 771-72, 774). Moreover, although Plaintiff once
took medication for high blood pressure, Plaintiff admitted that Dr. Krauss, his
pain management specialist, had stopped prescribing blood pressure medication.
(Tr. at 15, 45). Furthermore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not required
emergency treatment for hypertensive or cardiac problems. (Tr. at 15, 43, 251-774).
Additionally, although Plaintiff alleged disabling knee pain, he had not sought
treatment in several years. (Tr. at 16.)
And yet, Mr. Curren believes the ALJ’s decision was incorrect in
discrediting his subjective complaints of pain because “the record is replete with
the documentation of . . . [his] intractible [sic] pain.” (See Doc. 17 at 6.) Mr.
Curren calls the ALJ’s determination a selective exercise in “choos[ing] citations”
to support her determination. (Doc. 17 at 11.) However, the ALJ is not required to
cite to each instance of documentation of pain or to formulate her decision in such
a rigid manner that includes every conclusion from the full 774-page record. See
Mitchell, 771 F.3d at 782 (pointing out that “particular phrases or formulations” do
not have to be cited in an ALJ’s credibility determination nor does she have to
“refer to every piece of evidence in [her] decision”) (quoting Dyer, 395 F.3d at
1211). Instead, she is only required to support her decision by substantial evidence,
which she overwhelmingly did here when she thoroughly engaged the medical
record in reaching her conclusions.
Aside from considering that the medical records did not reveal intractable
pain of the nature described by the plaintiff, the ALJ also specifically determined
that when Mr. Curren took medications, his pain was “relatively maintained.” (Tr.
at 15.) This reason is also supported by substantial evidence. Mr. Curren testified
that without his medications his neck and back pain reached an 8 on a 10-point
scale, which the ALJ denotes as severe pain, but that with his medications his pain
was a 6 to 7, which denoted only moderate pain. (Id.) Furthermore, the ALJ found
that, despite alleging disabling knee pain, Plaintiff had not sought treatment for his
knee in years and told Dr. Doleys it only occasionally hurt. (Tr. a5 15, 41, 488).
Further, after Dr. Krauss restarted oral pain medications for Mr. Curren, he
reported a reduction in his pain and significant improvement in his physical
functioning. (Tr. at 19, 608, 612, 616, 622, 625, 628, 631, 637, 640, 643, 649, 654,
659.) When medication effectively controls medical conditions, it is more difficult
for a plaintiff to show that those conditions are disabling for Social Security
disability purposes. See Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988).
Lastly, the ALJ supported her determination that Mr. Curren was not
entirely credible by stating that “[his described daily activities] are not limited to
the extent one would expect, given the complaints of disabling symptoms and
limitations.” (Tr. at 15.) While “participation in everyday activities of short
duration” does not disqualify Mr. Curren from disability, an ALJ can certainly
consider them in making her determination. See Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1441 (11th Cir. 1997); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)(i); SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186
at *3, 6, 7; Macia v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 1009, 1012 (11th Cir. 1987) (“The regulations
do not  prevent the ALJ from considering daily activities at the fourth step of the
sequential evaluation process”). The ALJ considered Mr. Curren’s reported daily
activities and reported that Mr. Curren “cares for his son, drives him to and from
school, prepare[s] meals daily, does the laundry, shops for groceries, pays his bills
and manages his finances.” (Tr. at 15.) Not only did Mr. Curren engage in these
activities, but in his examination with Dr. Neville, he described his “being
independent . . . [in his] personal hygiene” and his ability to “cut the grass with a
riding lawnmower, shop, dr[i]ve, visit with friends, . . . [go] to the hunting club
[because he] do[esn’t] like to be still . . . [and go] to the bank for a family member.”
(Tr. at 358.) He also told Dr. Doleys that he hunts. (Tr. at 490.) In the ALJ’s
opinion, these activities did not seem consistent with Mr. Curren’s complaints of
disabling symptoms and limitations. The medical record confirms the ALJ’s
decision. Importantly, the ALJ did not rely on reported daily activities alone in
making her credibility determination, and she did not find his reported daily
activities to be dispositive, but merely one factor among several in her credibility
Although Plaintiff argues that the record is replete with his history of
complaints of severe neck and back pain, these are merely Plaintiff’s own subjective
reports of symptoms. Without corroborating evidence of disabling symptoms or
evidence that undermines the ALJ’s reasons for finding Plaintiff’s allegations not
entirely credible, Plaintiff cannot prevail under this Court’s standard of review.
Notably, as discussed above, on physical examination, Plaintiff’s examining
physicians often found no muscle spasms (or no more than moderate spasms) in his
neck and back, mild to moderate spinal tenderness, normal motor and sensory
exams, and negative straight leg raising tests. (Tr. at 365-69, 381, 454, 456, 580-81,
619-20, 654, 656, 745.) Significantly, as discussed above, while Plaintiff’s doctors
treated him with medications, injections, and blocks, he reported up to 90% relief
from these treatments. (Tr. at 423, 428, 453-54, 473). At times, he reported his
pain as low as 0 out of 10, and treatment notes reflect his pain was frequently
reported as mild, moderate, or as a 4, 5, or 6 out of 10. (Tr. at 380, 381, 455, 460-61,
491, 608, 612, 616, 619-20, 622, 628, 631, 637, 640, 643, 649, 654, 656, 669, 672,
674). Finally, Plaintiff only required emergency care once for his allegedly disabling
symptoms. (Tr. at 719-26). Even if there is some evidence supporting Plaintiff’s
claims of neck and back pain, as discussed above, substantial evidence supports the
ALJ’s finding, and, therefore, this Court affirms it. See Crawford, 363 F.3d at 115859.
Upon review of the administrative record, and considering all of Mr.
Curren’s arguments, the Court finds the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence and in accord with the applicable law. A separate order will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED on December 16, 2015.
L. Scott Coogler
United States District Judge
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