Sadler v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CASE that the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED and costs are taxed to claimant as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 1/14/2016. (AHI)
2016 Jan-14 AM 10:14
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner, Social Security
Case No. 2:15-cv-608-CLS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Claimant, Patricia Sadler, commenced this action on April 10, 2015, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and
thereby denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.
The court’s role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is
a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v.
Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253
(11th Cir. 1983).
Claimant contends that the Commissioner’s decision is neither supported by
substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal standards. Specifically,
claimant asserts that the ALJ improperly evaluated her credibility and complaints of
subjective symptoms. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that these
contentions lack merit, and the Commissioner’s ruling is due to be affirmed.
To demonstrate that pain or another subjective symptom renders her disabled,
a claimant must “produce ‘evidence of an underlying medical condition and (1)
objective medical evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged pain arising from
that condition or (2) that the objectively determined medical condition is of such
severity that it can be reasonably expected to give rise to the alleged pain.’” Edwards
v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Landry v. Heckler, 782 F.2d
1551, 1553 (11th Cir. 1986)). If an ALJ discredits subjective testimony of pain,
“[s]he must articulate explicit and adequate reasons.” Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007,
1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001, 1004 (11th Cir. 1986);
MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1054 (11th Cir. 1986)) (alteration supplied).
The ALJ in the present case properly applied these legal principles. She found
that claimant’s medically determinable impairments could reasonably have been
expected to produce the symptoms claimant alleged, but that claimant’s statements
concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not
entirely credible.1 This conclusion was in accordance with applicable law. See
Marbury v. Sullivan, 957 F.2d 837, 839 (11th Cir. 1992) (“After considering a
claimant’s complaints of pain, the ALJ may reject them as not creditable, and that
determination will be reviewed for substantial evidence.”) (citing Wilson v. Heckler,
734 F.2d 513, 517 (11th Cir. 1984)) (emphasis supplied).
The ALJ also adequately articulated reasons to support her findings. The ALJ
noted claimant’s testimony that her pain management physician had wanted to
increase the dosages of her medications, but she refused because she did not want to
take stronger medication.2 She also noted that claimant had informed her primary
care doctor that she was doing well, was planning to help her son with her
grandchildren at least two weeks out of the month, and wanted to establish an
exercise routine.3 Additionally, claimant had reported to her pain management
physician in January and April of 2013 that she was doing well on her current
The ALJ also relied upon the report of consultative examiner Dr. Marshal
Kuremsky, who observed during his examination that claimant exhibited normal gait,
full grip strength, normal range of motion, and negative straight leg raising, and that
she could heel-toe walk and squat without difficulty.5
Tr. 47, 261.
Tr. 48, 237.
Dr. Kuremsky’s final
Previous diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic pain, certainly not
disputing this patient’s subjective history and complaints regarding her
pain. She expresses significant disability and debilitation from chronic
pain condition. Objectively, I am unable to measure or assess this pain.
Her motion and remainder of musculoskeletal examination appeared to
be within normal limits and without obvious abnormality for thoracic,
rib, and lumbar associated pain.6
The ALJ also relied upon the assessment of Dr. Cassandra Comer, the state
agency medical consultant, who opined that claimant could occasionally lift and/or
carry 20 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry 10 pounds, stand and walk for 6 hours
during an 8-hour workday, sit for 6 hours during an 8-hour workday, and perform
unlimited pushing and pulling movements. She could never climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, but she could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, and crawl, and
she could frequently balance, kneel, and crouch. She did not have any manipulative,
visual, or communicative limitations, and she did not have any environmental
limitations other than avoiding concentrated exposure to vibration and hazards such
as machinery and heights.7
Without question, the medical records demonstrate the existence of medical
conditions that could cause some level of impairment. The ALJ acknowledged that
Tr. 238. See also Tr. 48.
Tr. 239-44. See also Tr. 48.
fact.8 But it is not the mere existence of an impairment, or of a medical condition,
that determines disability. Instead, the relevant consideration is the effect of
claimant’s impairment, or combination of impairments, on her ability to perform
substantial gainful work activities. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a) (defining a disability
as “the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable 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 of not less than
12 months”). See also Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 (1987) (“The [Social
Security] Act ‘defines “disability” in terms of the effect a physical or mental
impairment has on a person’s ability to function in the workplace.’”) (quoting Heckler
v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 459-60 (1983)) (alteration supplied). Here, the ALJ was
entitled to credit some portions of the medical evidence more than others in finding
that claimant’s impairments did not prevent her from performing all work activity.
While claimant has presented some evidence — primarily in the form of her own
testimony and her subjective complaints to her doctors — that her condition is
disabling, the ALJ’s decision that claimant is not disabled nonetheless is supported
by substantial evidence, and that is all that this court must find on review.
In summary, the court concludes the ALJ’s decision was based upon substantial
evidence and in accordance with applicable legal standards. Accordingly, the
See Tr. 49 (acknowledging claimant’s “medically determinable impairments”).
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. Costs are taxed against claimant. The
Clerk is directed to close this file.
DONE this 14th day of January, 2016.
United States District Judge
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