Harrison v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge John E Ott on 4/20/2015. (KAM, )
2015 Apr-20 AM 10:13
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
CASE NO. 4:14-cv-00242-JEO
Plaintiff Wanda Harrison brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking
review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
finding that she is not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Doc. 1).1 The case has been
assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to this court’s general order
of reference dated January 14, 2013. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 18). Upon review of the record and the
relevant law, the undersigned finds that the Commissioner’s decision is due to be affirmed.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Harrison filed applications for disability insurance benefits on March 2, 2011. She alleged
a disability onset date of August 5, 2009. (R. 23).2 Her applications were initially denied by the
State Agency. On August 8, 20111, the plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
References herein to “Doc(s). __” are to the document numbers assigned by the Clerk of the
Court to the pleadings, motions, and other materials in the court file, as reflected on the docket
sheet in the court’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system.
References herein to “R. __” are to the page number of the administrative record which is
encompassed within the Commissioner’s Answer at document 5.
Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on October 18, 2012. The plaintiff, her counsel and a vocational
expert were present during the video hearing. On December 19, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision
finding that the plaintiff was not entitled to benefits.
Harrison filed a request for review with the Appeals Council and on January 30, 2014, the
Appeals Council denied the plaintiff’s request. On that date, the ALJ’s decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. The plaintiff then filed this action for judicial review under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Counsel for the Commissioner filed her brief, to which the plaintiff responded.
(Docs. 8 & 14). The court then required the Commissioner to reply to the plaintiff’s brief, which
she did. (Docs. 15 & 17).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision is narrowly circumscribed. The
function of the court is to determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by
substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389. 390, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th
Cir. 2002). This court must “scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision
reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d
1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance.” Id.
The court must uphold factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence.
However, it reviews the ALJ’s legal conclusions de novo because no presumption of validity
attaches to the ALJ’s determination of the proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v. Shalala,
985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the court finds an error in the ALJ’s application of the
law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the
proper legal analysis has been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ’s decision. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
III. STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
To qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her entitlement period of disability, a
claimant must be disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and Regulations promulgated
thereunder.3 The Regulations define being “disabled” 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 twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To establish entitlement to disability
benefits, a claimant must provide evidence of a “physical or mental impairment” which “must result
from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
The Regulations provide a five-step process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v) and 416.920(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
Is the claimant presently unemployed;
Is the claimant’s impairment severe;
Does the claimant’s impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments set
forth in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 [the “Listings”];
Is the claimant unable to perform his or her former occupation;
The “Regulations” promulgated under the Social Security Act are listed in 20 C.F.R. Parts 400
to 499, revised as of April 1, 2007.
Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within the economy?
Mcdaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). An affirmative answer to any of the
above questions leads either to the next question or, at steps three and five, to a finding of disability.
A negative answer to any question, other than step three, leads to a determination of “not disabled.”
Id. see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920.
IV. FINDINGS OF THE ALJ
The plaintiff was 58 years old at the time of her hearing before the ALJ. She has past
relevant work experience as a cook helper and sewing machine operator in a knitting factory. (R.
23-25). She alleges that she has been unable to work since August 5, 2009, due to debilitating back
and hip pain and depression/anxiety. (R. 23). Following a hearing, the ALJ determined that the
plaintiff had severe impairments of anxiety, depression, and degenerative disc disease. (R. 30).
However, none of these impairments, individually or in combination, met or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. (Id.) The ALJ further found that the plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity to perform light work with some limitations. (R. 27-31). Finally, the
ALJ determined that the plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a sewing
machine operator. (Id.)
The plaintiff claims that the decision of the ALJ is due to be reversed and benefits awarded
to her or that the decision is due to be remanded for further, proper consideration.
Commissioner argues that the contention is without merit and that the decision of the ALJ is
supported by substantial evidence.
It is well-settled that the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that she is disabled. See 42
U.S.C. § 423 (D)(5)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a), (c); 20 C.F.R. §
416.912(a) (“In general, you have to prove to us that you are blind or disabled. This means that you
must furnish medical and other evidence that we can use to reach conclusions about your medical
impairment(s).”); 20 C.F.R. § 416.912(c) (“Your responsibility. You must provide medical evidence
showing that you have an impairment(s) and how severe it is during the time you say that you are
disabled. You must provide the evidence, without redaction, showing how your impairment(s)
affects your functioning during the time you say that you are disabled, and any other information
that we need to decide your claim.”); Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (“An
individual claiming Social Security disability benefits must prove that she is disabled.”); Ellison v.
Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (stating that “the claimant bears the burden of
proving that he is disabled, and, consequently, he is responsible for producing evidence in support
of his claim”).
In evaluating a disability claim involving subjective complaints such as pain, United States
District Judge L. Scott Coogler has stated:
In order to establish a disability on the basis of subjective testimony of pain and
other symptoms, the claimant must present evidence to support the Eleventh
Circuit’s pain standard. Under this standard, a plaintiff must present (1) evidence of
an underlying medical condition; and (2) either a) objective medical evidence
confirming the severity of the alleged symptoms or b) that the objectively
determined medical condition is of such a severity that it can reasonably [be]
expected to give rise to the alleged pain. See 20 C.F.R. § 404. 1529(a) (2011); Foote
v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d
1221, 1225 (11th Cir. 1991)). If the claimant establishes an impairment that could
reasonably be expected to cause his alleged symptoms, the ALJ is obligated to
evaluate the claimant’s subjective complaints, including intensity and persistence of
the alleged symptoms and their effect on the claimant’s ability to work. Hogard v.
Sullivan, 733 F. Supp. 1465, 1469 (M.D. Fla. 1990). The ALJ may discredit this
type of pain testimony only by articulating “explicit and adequate reasoning” based
on substantial evidence from the record. Foote, 67 F.3d at 1561; Wilson, 284 F.3d
Parker ex rel. Parker v. Colvin, 2013 WL 2635696, *3 (N.D. Ala. June 10, 2013). A reversal is
warranted if the decision of the ALJ contains no indication of the proper application of the three-part
pain standard. Holt, 921 F.2d at 1223.
The Plaintiff’s View
In support of the plaintiff’s contention that she is disabled, counsel points to the plaintiff’s
testimony concerning her “debilitating back and hip pain which radiates in to her lower extremities,
and depression and anxiety.” (Doc. 14 at 2). Counsel also points to Dr. Mary Kessler’s testimony
about how the plaintiff’s illiteracy would significantly affect the number of jobs she would qualify
for. (Doc. 14 at 3). Counsel also contends that the ALJ failed to properly consider Dr. Jason
Junkins’ testimony as to the plaintiff’s pain and limitations. Counsel also contends that there was
no testimony to support the ALJ’s determination that the claimant was capable of performing past
relevant work. Counsel concludes that the plaintiff is entitled to an award of benefits. (Doc. 14 at
8). The Commissioner argues that the ALJ properly gave only “some weight” to Dr. Junkins’
opinion. (Doc. 8 at 9; Doc. 17 at 1-2).
Further, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ
appropriately used a hypothetical scenario during the hearing to determine whether the plaintiff was
capable of performing past relevant work. (Id.)
The plaintiff asserts that she was disabled as of August 5, 2009. (R. 23). The plaintiff stated
at the disability hearing that she has back pain in the lower center of her back that rotates into her
hip area. (R. 43, 44). She further stated that she can sit between 10 and 15 minutes before she has
to stand or shift due to back pain and she can stand between 8 and 10 minutes at a time. (R. 44).
She treats the pain by reclining in a chair and using ice packs or heating pads. (Id.) Her normal
activities consist of cooking, lying down, light cleaning, attending church, and fishing. (R. 45-48).
The plaintiff also stated at the disability hearing that she suffers from anxiety. (R. 48, 50-51).
Medical records from Dekalb Interfaith Medical Clinic show that in July 2007, she visited
the Clinic complaining of swelling in her feet and legs because she had been “on them more than
ususal.” (R. 215). She returned in August complaining of lower back pain, cramping legs, painful
urination, and high cholesterol. (R. 203). The plaintiff was ultimately diagnosed with a urinary tract
infection. (Id.) In 2008, the plaintiff presented to the Clinic with back pain between her shoulders,
lower back pain, and arm pain. (R. 205). She explained to the doctor that a bulging disc had been
discovered months prior and she needed medication for the pain. (Id.) The doctor prescribed her
anaprox and referred her to a physical therapist for her back pain. (Id.) The plaintiff returned to the
Clinic a few months later with another urinary tract infection. (R. 204). A couple weeks later, the
plaintiff returned complaining of back and joint pain, but there was no physician available. (R. 209).
The plaintiff returned a few weeks later and complained of a rash on her chin and a sore right hand.
(R. 212). In February 2009, the plaintiff went to Dekalb Regional Medical Center complaining of
chest pain and was diagnosed with episodic atrial fibrillation with chest pain. (R. 241-258). She
was admitted to the hospital and discharged two days later. (R. 241, 243). In April 2009, the
plaintiff returned to the hospital complaining of palpitations and chest tightness. The plaintiff was
admitted and discharged from the hospital the same day. (R. 210, 259-271).
A year and a half later, the plaintiff presented to Dekalb Interfaith Clinic with a sinus
headache. (R. 274). In May 2011, the plaintiff presented to Scottsboro Quick Care Clinic for a
disability physical examination, with a chief complaint of “on and off” back pain that had been
ongoing for quite some time. (R. 277-79). The plaintiff stated that her back pain caused her to hurt
all the time and bending and twisting of the back caused her pain. (Id.) The plaintiff also talked
about her history with depression and anxiety, although she stated that she was not seeing a
psychiatrist. She also stated that she had a history of acid reflux and some arthritis of the spine.
(Id.) Medical records from Dr. Younus Ismail, at the Scottsboro Clinic, show that a detailed
examination was completed on the plaintiff. (Id.) The examination showed some crepitance on the
knee but no subluxation of any of the major joints. (Id.) There was no evidence of any muscular
atrophy, deep tendon reflexes were 2+, and range of movement at shoulders, elbows, hands, hips,
knees, and ankles were within a normal limit. (R. 277-79). Tenderness of the lumbar spine was
noted and a mild spasm of the lumbar paraspinal muscles was noticed. (Id.) Dr. Ismail noted that
the plaintiff has a normal gait and she is able to walk without any assisted device. (Id.) An x-ray
of the LS-spine AP and lateral views was done in the office and it showed a normal alignment. (Id.)
The plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic back pain, degenerative disc disease of the spine,
depression, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and insomnia. (Id. at 279).
In June 2011, the plaintiff presented to Dr. Mary Arnold for a psychological evaluation. (R.
281-83). Dr. Arnold noted that the plaintiff was alert and oriented in all spheres. She was mentally
able to calculate six quarters and was able to repeat span of five digits forward and three digits
backwards. (Id.) The plaintiff also counted backwards from twenty and recited serial 7s. (Id.) The
plaintiff knew her social security number, recalled three of three objects with some delay, and was
able to name the months of the year in a backwards sequence. (Id.) The plaintiff reported that she
does her own grooming and dressing and pays bills at the business. (Id.) She and her husband go
to church every Sunday and she loves to take her grandchildren fishing. (R. 282-83). Dr. Arnold
diagnosed the plaintiff with adjustment disorder and noted that she was poorly educated. (R. 283).
In September 2011, the plaintiff visited Dr. Russell Hutcherson complaining of low back
pain and lower extremity hypoesthesia. (R. 301-02). X-rays were performed and the plaintiff was
diagnosed with mild discogenic degenerative disease without acute osseous abnormality. (R. 302).
The plaintiff had a similar complaint on October 4, 2011. (R. 300).
In December 2011, the plaintiff visited Riverview Regional Medical Center with chest pain.
She was discharged a short time later with a cardiac diet and continued on her medications. (R. 30762). Smoking cassation was recommended. (R. 352).
On July 11, 2012, the plaintiff presented to Quality of Life Health Services with back pain.
(R. 367-71). The plaintiff rated her pain as an 8 out of 10. (Id.) She stated that the problem was
worsening and that it occurs intermittently. (Id.) The plaintiff described the pain as aching, burning,
and throbbing. (Id.) She also stated that the pain wakes her up at night. (Id.) A physical
examination of the plaintiff showed thoracic spine muscle spasms, some moderate pain with motion,
and spasms in the lumbar spine. (R. 369). She was diagnosed with a backache, constipation, chest
pain, esophageal reflux, depression, insomnia, and anxiety. (R. 370). Two weeks later, the plaintiff
returned to Quality of Life Health Services with chest pain/pressure, fatigue, and cold sweats. (R.
372). The plaintiff stated that she did not want to make an appointment with a cardiologist, but
would seek cardiology treatment through the emergency room.
During the physical
examination, the plaintiff had no back pain, joint pain, neck pain, or muscle weakness. (R. 374)
The plaintiff noted an increased level of anxiety due to her husband’s illness. (Id.) The plaintiff was
sent to the emergency room for further evaluation. (R. 375).
The ALJ examined all of the evidence and found that the plaintiff’s “statements concerning
the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects” of her symptoms “are not credible to the extent they
are inconsistent with the above residual functional capacity assessment.” (R. 31). The ALJ further
noted that “in comparing the claimant’s residual functional capacity with the physical and mental
demands of this work” the plaintiff “is able to perform [her past relevant work as a sewing machine
operator] as actually and generally performed.” (Id.) In reaching these determinations, the ALJ
found that the plaintiff’s medical examinations and the plaintiff’s own daily activities suggest that
a limitation to light work is reasonable. (R. 27). The ALJ went further and noted that the plaintiff’s
pain is “moderate at most and that this moderate pain has a moderate affect on the claimant’s ability
to concentrate occasionally.” (R. 30). The record reveals that the claimant “demonstrated good
condition, abstract reasoning, and thought processing during a psychological exam.” (Id.) The
plaintiff has managed her pain with medications, heating pads, and ice packs. (R. 44-45, 192-96).
Consideration of the Opinions of Dr. Junkins
The plaintiff contends that the ALJ did not properly consider the opinions of Dr. Jason
Junkins nor did he provide sufficient clarity for disregarding the same. (Doc. 14 at 3). The
Commissioner retorts that the ALJ’s decision to not to accept Dr. Junkins’ opinion is supported by
substantial evidence. (Docs. 8 at 9 & 17 at 1). The court agrees with the Commissioner. An ALJ
can consider a number of factors to determine the weight to give each medical opinion. The ALJ
can consider whether the doctor has examined the claimant, the length and extent of a treating
doctor’s relationship with the claimant, medical evidence and explanation supporting the doctor’s
opinion, how consistent the doctor’s opinion is with the record, and the doctor’s specialization. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(1-6). The opinion of a treating physician “must be given substantial or
considerable weight unless good cause is shown to the contrary.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1440 (11th Cir. 1997). However, the evidence in the record suggests that Dr. Jason Junkins was
a consultative physician and not a treating physician. (R. 58, 383-88). Accordingly, Dr. Junkins
opinion is not entitled to the substantial weight given to the opinion of a treating physician. Cf
Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1160 (11th Cir. 2004) (stating that “[t]he ALJ
correctly found that, because Hartig examined Crawford on only one occasion, her opinion was not
entitled to great weight”).
The ALJ “must state with particularity the weight given to different medical opinions and
the reasons therefor.” Lawton v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 431 F. App’x. 830, 834 (11th Cir. 2011)
(citing Sharfarz v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 278, 279 (11th Cir. 1987)). In addressing the opinion of Dr.
Junkins, the ALJ gave his opinion “some weight.” (R. 31). The ALJ found that “although it is more
limiting than the current residual functional capacity, the only explanation for the limitation is back
pain or neuropathy.” (R. 31, 383-88). As stated, the ALJ’s reason for giving only “some weight”
to the consultative physician was the lack of medical evidence and explanation supporting the
doctor’s opinion. (R. 31). The ALJ considered Dr. Junkins’ lack of medical explanation, the
medical assessments of the plaintiff by treating physicians, and the plaintiff’s own daily activities
in deciding what weight to give Dr. Junkins’ opinions. With regard to the plaintiff’s daily activities,
the ALJ noted:
The claimant is the primary caregiver of her husband. The claimant is able to do
laundry and housework. Additionally, the claimant enjoys fishing as a hobby. The
claimant is able to go to church every Sunday and even start revivals. She is able to
host gatherings at her home to celebrate holiday. She goes to softball games, shops,
gardens, and takes care of the dogs. These activities are inconsistent with an
individual who is limited to sedentary work, which is the exertional level the
claimant’s representative suggests best describes the claimant.
(R. 29, 30). On the evaluation form where Dr. Junkins is asked to identify the particular medical
or clinical findings supporting his conclusions, he simply stated “back pain” or “neuropathy.” (Id.)
Thus, the undersigned finds that the substantial evidence in the record supports the ALJ’s decision
to give only “some weight” to the opinion of Dr. Junkins.
To the extent that the plaintiff argues the ALJ’s statement that Dr. Junkins’ opinions did not
show disabling limitations is inconsistent with the testimony of the vocational expert (doc. 14 at 4-5;
R. 31 & 61), the court finds this unpersuasive for a number of reasons. First, the hypothetical
limitation posited by counsel at the hearing to the vocational expert was not premised on the
opinions of by Dr. Junkins. Counsel asked the expert if the plaintiff could perform past relevant
work if she could not use her “lower extremities in any kind of repetitive fashion or to utilize foot
controls.” (R. 61). The expert replied, “Yes, that would preclude the sewing machine operation.”
(Id.) What Dr. Junkins said, however, is that the plaintiff could occasionally use foot controls with
both feet. (R. 385). Additionally, the vocational expert stated the plaintiff could work sewing
machines equipped with knee controls. (R. 61). Accordingly, Dr. Junkins’ opinions and the VE
testimony does not warrant a conclusion that the plaintiff is not disabled.4
Past Relevant Work
The plaintiff also contends that there was no testimony provided at the hearing to support
the ALJ’s determination that she was capable of performing her past relevant work. (Doc. 14 at 6).
The Commissioner retorts that the vocational expert’s testimony supports the ALJ’s determination
that the plaintiff could perform her past work. (Doc. 17 at 3-4). The court again agrees with the
The ALJ found at step four of the sequential evaluation process that the plaintiff could
perform her past relevant work as a sewing machine operator based on the evidence presented in the
record. (R. 31). In concluding that the plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work, the
ALJ also noted that the “vocational expert testified that the claimant could perform her past job
given the residual functional capacity.” (Id.) At step four of the sequential evaluation process, the
It must also be noted that an ALJ does not have to include every limitation in its hypothetical
that he finds to be unsupported. Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1161 (11th
Cir. 2004). Evidence in the record suggests that the ALJ properly concluded that some of the
limitations were unsupported by medical evidence or the plaintiff’s testimony.
ALJ is to determine whether the claimant has the “residual functional capacity” to perform past
relevant work. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). This determination takes
into account all relevant evidence, including the medical evidence in the record and the plaintiff’s
testimony. (Id.) A vocational expert may be used to determine whether a claimant can perform past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(b)(2). A hypothetical question also may be used to determine
whether a person with the physical and mental limitations imposed on the claimant can meet the
demands of the plaintiff’s previous work. (Id.) In order for a vocational expert’s testimony to
constitute substantial evidence, the ALJ’s hypothetical question must include all of the plaintiff’s
limitations. Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1227 (11th Cir. 2002). The plaintiff argues that the
ALJ did not ask the vocational expert questions about all of the limitations found in the residual
functional capacity, specifically the limitations resulting in concentration difficulties. (Doc. 14 at
The hearing record demonstrates that the ALJ posed the following hypothetical to the
So if you would, assume an individual of the claimant’s age, education, and past
work; the individual has exertional limitations that would limit her to medium work;
and finding that she experiences moderate pain which is moderately effecting her
ability to concentrate and this occurring on an occasional basis during an eight-hour
workday; she experiences moderate depression and anxiety and overall moderate
psychiatric impairment which is moderately affecting her ability to concentrate, this
also occurring on an occasional basis during an eight-hour workday; as long as she
has regularly scheduled breaks normally allowed in the workplace by an employer,
the claimant will never be off task during that eight-hour workday; the claimant
could never climb a ladder, ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally kneel, crouch
and crawl; can frequently climb stairs and ramps and can frequently balance, stoop,
reach, handle, finger, and feel. Now given that hypothetical question, can she
perform any of her past work?
(R. 57). The ALJ confirmed with the vocational expert that if the plaintiff was limited to
light work, she would be able to do the seamer job. (R. 58). The ALJ included all of the
limitations that were consistent with the medical and other evidence presented in the record
in his inquiries of the vocational expert. (R. 27). The vocational expert answered in the
affirmative concerning the plaintiff’s ability to work. (R. 57).
Concerning the plaintiff’s concentration difficulties, the ALJ noted the following:
The claimant stated in her function report that she has difficulty remembering what
she is doing; however, she also noted that she can follow instructions fairly well
(Exhibit 7E). The claimant demonstrated good cognition, abstract reasoning, and
thought processing during a psychological evaluation (Exhibit 6F). However, the
claimant likely has some concentration difficulties from her anxiety and depression,
and the undersigned has included these concentration difficulties in the above
residual functional capacity.
(R. 30). Further, the ALJ stated:
Although the claimant rated her pain an 8 out of 10 in 2012, her pain can hardly be
rated as more than moderate (Exhibit 10F). In fact, her testimony is more consistent
with the record, and she testified that she has back pain that rates a 5 or 6 out of 10.
The plaintiff has infrequent complaints of back pain at best. She complained of back
pain in 2008 and did not complain of back pain again until 2011 (Exhibit 1F and 5F).
Her degeneration was described as mild in 2011, when she had an x-ray (Exhibit 8F).
In July 2012, which is her last complaint of back pain in the record even though it
is not the last medical visit in the record, the claimant had muscle spasms in her
thoracic and lumbar spines and reported moderate pain with motion in her thoracic
spine (Exhibit 10F). Claimant testified that she uses ibuprofen for pain and that she
treats her pain with heating pads, ice packs, and reclining for a few hours.
(R.30). The ALJ included all limitations that he found to be supported by evidence as a hypothetical
question to the vocational expert. The vocational expert testified that an individual could work with
mild to moderate pain. (R. 60). He also stated she could perform her past relevant work. (R. 58).
Taking into account all relevant evidence in the record, including the testimony of the vocational
expert, the ALJ had substantial evidence to conclude that the plaintiff was capable of returning to
her past work.
The plaintiff has failed to show how the ALJ legally or factually misapplied applicable
Eleventh Circuit precedent. In sum, substantial evidence supports the determination of the ALJ that
the plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act.
For the reasons set forth above, the undersigned finds that the decision of the
Commissioner is due to be AFFIRMED.
DONE, this the 20th day of April, 2015.
JOHN E. OTT
Chief United States Magistrate Judge
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