Lewis v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
REVISED MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Judge Karon O Bowdre on 9/25/13. (SAC )
2013 Sep-25 PM 02:24
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DAWN MARIE LEWIS,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Civil Action No.: 5:12-CV-00358-KOB
REVISED MEMORANDUM OPINION
On October 2, 2009, the claimant, Dawn Marie Lewis, applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. (R. 14). The claimant alleges disability
commencing on August 28, 2009 because of pain in her hands, knees, back and neck. (R. 216).
The Commissioner denied the claim both initially and on reconsideration. The claimant filed a
timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and the ALJ held a hearing on
April 19, 2011. (R. 14). In a decision dated August 1, 2011, the ALJ found that the claimant
was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and, thus, was ineligible for disability
insurance benefits. (R. 27). On December 9, 2011, the Appeals Council denied the claimant’s
request for review; consequently, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. (R. 1). The claimant has exhausted her
administrative remedies, and this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). For the reasons stated below, this court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
II. ISSUES PRESENTED
The claimant presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the ALJ properly
applied the Eleventh Circuit’s three-part pain standard; (2) whether the ALJ relied too heavily on
the opinion of Dr. Carmichael, a reviewing physician, to the exclusion of other evidence; and (3)
whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The standard for reviewing the Commissioner’s decision is limited. This court must
affirm the Commissioner’s decision if the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and
if the factual conclusions are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999
(11th Cir. 1987).
“No . . . presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner’s] legal conclusions,
including determination of the proper standards to be applied in evaluating claims.” Walker, 826
F.2d at 999. This court does not review the Commissioner’s factual determinations de novo. The
court will affirm those factual determinations that are supported by substantial evidence.
“Substantial evidence” is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
The court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of
the [Commissioner]’s factual findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A reviewing court may not
look only to those parts of the record that support the decision of the ALJ, but instead must view
the record in its entirety and take account of evidence that detracts from the evidence relied on
by the ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179 (11th Cir. 1986).
IV. LEGAL STANDARD
Under 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to disability benefits when the
person cannot “engage in 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.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To make this determination, the Commissioner employs a five step,
sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments
set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former occupation?
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the economy?
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads either to the next
question, or, on 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."
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986); See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
In evaluating pain and other subjective complaints, the Commissioner must first consider
whether the claimant demonstrated an underlying medical condition, and then “either (2)
objective medical evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged pain arising from that
condition or (3) that the objectively determined medical condition is of such a severity that it can
be reasonable expected to give rise to the alleged pain.” Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221, 1223
(11th Cir. 1991) (emphasis added); see also Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir.
2002); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529.
Further, in determining a claimant’s RFC, the ALJ should consider all the evidence
presented by the claimant. Siverio v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 461 F. App'x 869, 871 (11th Cir.
2012) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3)) (“The ALJ makes an RFC finding based on all the
‘relevant medical and other evidence.’”). However, the burden to prove disability rests with the
claimant. Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
The claimant has a G.E.D. and was fifty-five years old at the time of the administrative
hearing. (R. 223, 107). Her past work experience includes employment as a child care teacher
and security guard. (R. 188). The claimant alleges she is unable to work because of back, neck
and knee pain. This pain is caused by degenerative disc disease, neurofibromatosis and arthritis
in her knees. The claimant also claims she is unable to work because of carpal tunnel syndrome,
tumors on her hand, and arthritis in her thumb. (R. 216).
On April 22, 1993, an MRI of the cervical spine revealed an enlarged left C2-3 neural
foramen, suggesting a possible neurofibroma. (R. 434). A later MRI of the thoracic spine, on
September 17, 1997, revealed a large neurofibroma at the T8-9 measures. (R. 435). On April,
15, 2002, the clamant had an MRI of the lumbar and thoracic spine that revealed degenerative
disc changes, but no disc herniation, stenosis or other significant findings. (R. 438).
On June 14, 2006, the claimant was referred to Dr. John H. Walker for numbness and
tingling in her right hand. Dr. Walker noted good grip strength and a mass on the claimant’s
right wrist. (R. 255). On August 2, 2006, Dr. Walker stated that the claimant’s nerve studies
reveal mild carpal tunnel syndrome; however, he opined that it was not serious enough for
surgery. (R. 254). On August 22, 2006, Dr. Walker scheduled surgery to remove a hand lesion
and tumor in her hand. He further noted that claimant’s neck pain was “much improved.” (R.
252-53). On a follow up after surgery on September 14, 2007, Dr. Walker stated that the
claimant could return to work on September 24th. (R. 251). The claimant returned to Dr.
Walker on October 17, 2007 with a painful mass on her right little finger. Dr. Walker limited
her to carrying one to two pounds and no work, (R. 250); however, on November 28, 2007, Dr.
Walker cleared her for normal activity. (R. 249).
On November 10, 2009, the claimant saw Dr. Walker complaining of hand pain,
especially a dorsal mass on her right small finger. The claimant told Dr. Walker she was not
worried about her thumbs because the pain had not changed. (R. 247). On November 24, 2009,
Dr. Walker diagnosed her with two probable neurofibroma and a glomus tumor in the right small
finger and some arthritis in her thumb. Dr. Walker scheduled surgery to remove the three
masses and prescribed her Lorcet Plus for the pain.
In her post-operation
evaluation, Dr. Walker noted that the claimant was doing very well and prescribed five mg
Lortabs, with no refill. (R. 416).
On January 27, 2010, Dr. Prem K. Gulati examined the claimant and noted her lower
back pain, difficulty using both hands, and bilateral knee pain. She reported the claimant stated
that the medication for the back pain did not help, although a knee brace helped her knee pain.
She stated that the claimant has no difficulties getting on and off the examination table and was
fully able to do a heel and toe walk. But she also cited that the claimant had difficulty squatting
down. Regarding the claimant’s hands, she reported that the constant sharp hand pain had not
improved. Although the claimant could not make a fist with her right hand, she could open a
doorknob, close buttons, tie shoelaces and hold small objects. In conclusion, Dr. Gulati opined
that the claimant could not perform any gainful employment until rehabilitation from finger
surgery. (R. 378-80).
On February 09, 2010, Dr. R. Glenn Carmichael reviewed the claimant’s medical record
and opined that the claimant had the RFC to perform medium work with some safety
precautions. He noted her neurofibromatosis of digit, degenerative arthritis of knee, meniscus
tear1 and hypertension before making his assessment. (R. 381).
On February 23, 2010, the claimant described her left knee pain as a level seven to Dr.
Richard C. Burnside. Dr. Burnside reported no fluid, clicks or pops, and a good range of motion
in left knee. He prescribed her Mobic and diagnosed her with degenerative arthritis and a left
knee sprain. (R. 382-83). On March 17, 2010, the claimant returned with problems in her left
knee. She stated the Mobic did not help. (R. 384). When the claimant returned again with knee
pain on March 31, 2010, Dr. Burnside stated he had no explanation for her pain because her
arthritis was within normal limits. (R. 385). After an MRI scan on April 08, 2010, Dr. Burnside
reported that the claimant had a torn medial meniscus in her right knee, “a fair amount of
patellofemoral joint arthritis” and a Baker’s cyst. (R. 386).
On February 21, 2011 at the UAB Health Center in Huntsville, the claimant stated that
she was “doing well in general and . . . tolerating her medications.” (R. 452). On March 21,
2011, the claimant reported mild improvement in her symptoms from her treatment with the
chiropractor. The physicians at the health center then referred the claimant to physical therapy
for her knees and to an orthopedic surgeon for her thumb; however, she declined physical
therapy, preferring to do her stretches at home. (R. 449-451). On March 30, 2011, the claimant
reported that her pain had not improved from her treatment at the chiropractor. However, the
Dr. Carmichael erroneously stated that this meniscus tear was in her left knee. (R. 381). Both Dr. Burnside and the
claimant stated that the tear was in her right knee. (R. 386, R. 114).
health center reports noted that she tolerated her current treatment, various types of stretches,
well. (R. 446).
The ALJ Hearing
After the Commissioner denied the claimant’s request for disability insurance benefits,
the claimant requested and received a hearing before an ALJ. (R. 95). At the hearing, the
claimant testified she had previous work experience at the Progressive Child Development
Center. She further testified that she has no longer worked there since August 28, 2009. (R.
109). The claimant testified she was let go because, in 1999, her doctor gave her a ten pound lift
restriction. She testified that under the new certification her position would require an ability to
lift fifty pounds. Afterwards, the claimant testified she filed for unemployment and was denied.
The claimant testified that since her two surgeries, her hands give her constant pain and
severely limit her ability to grip and lift items. She testified that thing would fall out of her
hands “trying to cook sometimes.” (R. 111-12). She testified that while at work she tripped and
fell, causing a torn meniscus in her right knee. (R. 114). She further testified that because of her
neck pain she has trouble getting up in the morning and looking down. (R. 113). She testified
these pains, in combination with her left knee pain and back pain, prevent her from doing
physical activity for more than twenty minutes or walking for more than fifteen minutes. After
that time, she stated, she needed to rest for fifteen to twenty minutes. She testified that the pain
made it difficult to even lift 10 pounds, although she did it at work when required to do so. She
testified that she would take Aleve for the pain because her other medication would put her to
sleep. (R. 118).
She then testified that having sat for ten minutes to give her testimony, she was
experiencing a little pain in her back, which she attributed to her degenerative disk disease. She
testified that this type of back pain was common and required her to use special pillows under
her neck and knees to sleep. (R. 123-24). In response to the ALJ’s questioning, the claimant
testified that she had not seen a physician for her knees since Dr. Burnside. She further testified
she had not seen a physician for her carpal tunnel since Dr. Walker. (R. 126-27).
The claimant then testified that she did not wash dishes, iron, sweep, mop, vacuum, do
yard work, garden, mow the lawn, hunt, fish, sew or drive. She did, however, do laundry and
fold clothes with assistance from her daughter. She testified she would occasionally take out a
small bag of garbage. She testified she would go to the grocery store occasionally with her
daughter. (R. 127-29).
Next, the ALJ examined a vocational expert. The expert testified that the claimant’s past
work at the Progressive Union Child Care Center most resembled a child care teacher under the
DOT. The expert then testified that a hypothetical individual - who could lift fifty pounds
occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; walk, stand and sit for six of eight hours in a
work day; never use ropes, ladders or scaffolds; kneel and crawl occasionally; stoop and crouch
frequently; and never be exposed to extreme temperatures - could work as a child care teacher.
She, however, testified that such an individual, because of the temperature limitations, could not
be employed as a security guard. (R. 132-33).
The ALJ’s Decision
On August 1, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding the claimant was not disabled
under the Social Security Act. (R. 27). First, the ALJ found that the claimant met the insured
status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. Next, the ALJ found that the
claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the onset of her disability. He then
neurofibromatosis, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of
the knees, carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthritic changes in the thumb.” (R. 16). The ALJ then
concluded that her impairments did not singly or in combination manifest the specific signs and
diagnostic findings required by the Listing of Impairments. (R. 19).
The ALJ next considered the claimant’s medical impairments and subjective allegations
of pain to determine whether she had the RFC to perform past relevant work. (R. 20). While the
ALJ determined the claimant’s medically determinable impairments could reasonably cause the
alleged symptoms, he found that the claimant’s testimony regarding the severity of her
symptoms was not credible. (R. 21).
To support this finding, the ALJ first referenced inconsistencies in the claimant’s prior
statements and her testimony at the hearing. He observed that on March 21, 2011 the claimant
stated she had noticed mild improvements in her pain after seeing a chiropractor for a year and
that on August 2, 2006 she was assessed with much improved neck pain. (R. 22). He further
noted her statement on September 18, 2008, that she “did not have significant problems
regarding her hand or skin lesions.” The ALJ cited her statement that she is “not too worried
about” the pain in her left thumb and base of her right thumb because it has “not really changed.”
The ALJ noted that on February 21, 2011, the claimant reported being “well in general and …
tolerating her medications.”
The ALJ determined these prior statements were
inconsistent with her subjective testimony. (R. 22).
Second, the ALJ referred the diagnostic evidence of the claimant’s condition. The ALJ
cited that she has no nerve root compression or disc herniation in her spine, while
acknowledging that the MRI did demonstrate degenerative changes in the lumbar spine. The
ALJ stated that Dr. Burnside, on March 17, 2010, could not explain the claimant’s pain because
her Arthritis Profile was within normal limits.
The ALJ noted that in her consultative
examination with Dr. Gulati, the claimant had full range of motion in her spine, had no
difficulties getting on and off the examination table, walked with normal gait, completed a heel
and toe walk without any difficulty and did straight leg raises to ninety degrees. (R. 22). He
also observed that the claimant’s August 2, 2006, nerve studies only revealed mild carpal tunnel
syndrome and no evidence of ulnar nerve compression. Regarding the claimant’s hands, the ALJ
cited Dr. Gulati’s observations that range of motion in all but the right little finger were normal,
grip strength was normal and manipulation of the upper extremities was normal (except for the
fifth finger). He also referenced Dr. Walker’s recommendation, on November 28, 2007, that she
return to normal work. The ALJ concluded that the entirety of the diagnostic evidence was
inconsistent with the claimant’s “level of pain that she allege[d] at the hearing.” (R. 23).
The ALJ also noted that the claimant had applied for unemployed benefits. Because
filing for unemployment benefits “entails an assertion of the ability to work,” he concluded that
this indicated an ability to work and detracted from her credibility. (R. 23).
Finally, the ALJ cited the claimant’s statements in her Function Report, (R. 196-203), as
evidence against her credibility. He noted her stated ability to prepare breakfast and perform
household chores for up to two hours.
He specifically referred to her statement that she
“prepares complete meals daily.” He further references her ability to shop for “food, clothing,
and household supplies.”
He concluded that these activities were inconsistent with the
symptoms alleged at the hearing. (R. 23).
Further, the ALJ “attributed significant weight” to Dr. Carmichael’s physical summary
that found that the claimant could perform medium work with frequent handling and fingering.
The ALJ noted that this opinion was consistent with the weight of the medical evidence. (R. 25).
The ALJ stated that he “attribute[d] little weight to the opinion of Dr. Gulati.”
Specifically, he found Dr. Gulati’s assertion that the claimant could not be gainfully employed to
be inconsistent with the weight of the medical evidence, including Dr. Gulati’s own
examination. The ALJ concluded that, despite Dr. Gulati’s assessment, “some limitation in the
claimant’s ability to bend the 5th finger of her right hand does not render her incapable of
performing gainful employment.” (R. 26).
The ALJ then determined that the claimant could perform medium work; could carry
fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; stand, walk or sit for six hours in
an eight hour work day; and perform frequent overhead reaching, fingering and feeling. (R. 20).
Based on these findings and testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ concluded the
claimant was capable of performing her past relevant work as a childcare worker and, therefore,
is not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 26).
The court finds that that the claimant’s arguments do not merit a reversal of the ALJ’s
decision. First, the ALJ properly applied the pain standard when discrediting the claimant’s
testimony. Second, the ALJ did not err by according Dr. Carmichael’s assessment significant
weight. Finally, the ALJ’s RFC findings were supported by substantial evidence.
The claimant argues that the ALJ improperly applied the Eleventh Circuit’s three-part
pain standard. To the contrary, the court finds the ALJ properly applied the pain standard.
When a claimant attempts to establish disability through her testimony of pain or other
subjective symptoms, the three-part pain standard applies. Holt v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1221, 1223
(11th Cir. 1991). To meet the pain standard, a claimant must demonstrate “(1) evidence of an
underlying medical condition and either (2) objective medical evidence that confirms the
severity of the alleged pain arising from that condition or (3) that the objectively determined
medical condition is of such a severity that it can be reasonable expected to give rise to the
alleged pain.” Id. (emphasis added). A claimant’s subjective testimony supported by medical
evidence that satisfies the pain standard is sufficient to support a finding of disability. Foote v.
Charter, 67 F.3d 1553, 1561 (11th Cir. 1995).
The ALJ may discredit a claimant’s subjective testimony of pain if he does so
specifically and articulates his reasons for doing so. Brown, 921 F.2d at 1236. Failure to
articulate adequate reasons for discrediting the claimant’s subjective complaints of pain requires
that the testimony be accepted as true. Id. However, “[a] clearly articulated credibility finding
with substantial supporting evidence in the record will not be disturbed by a reviewing court.”
Foote, 67 F.3d at 1562 (internal citations omitted).
In this case, the ALJ conceded that the claimant suffers from an underlying medical
condition capable of generating the alleged pain; however, he found that the entirety of the
evidence was inconsistent with the claimant’s alleged symptoms.
The ALJ’s explicitly articulated his reasons for discrediting the claimant’s alleged
symptoms, and these reasons were supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ cited previous
statements by the claimant that were inconsistent with her testimony. He noted the diagnostic
evidence, including her MRI results and Arthritic profile, that did not indicate the level of pain
alleged. He referenced her examining doctor’s, Dr. Gulati’s, notes that she had normal range of
motion in her spine, walked with a normal gait, performed a heel and toe walk without difficulty
and had no difficulty getting on and off the examination table. He determined that the filing for
unemployment benefits detracted from her credibility.2
He found her testimony to be
inconsistent with her previous statements regarding her ability to cook full meals daily, shop
regularly and perform chores for up to two hours.3
These articulated reasons provided
substantial evidence the ALJ’s decision to discredit the claimant’s testimony.
The claimant does not argue that the ALJ’s stated reasons are not supported by
substantial evidence; rather, the claimant focuses on the medical evidence supporting her alleged
The claimant points the court to her patellofemoral joint arthritis, torn medial
meniscus and degenerative joint disease in her knees as direct support for the claimant’s
testimony. The claimant’s knee condition indeed does provide support for the claimant’s alleged
symptoms; however, the claimant must show more than medical support for her testimony. She
must show that the ALJ’s reasons for discrediting her testimony are not supported by substantial
evidence. See Foote, 67 F.3d at 1562. These knee conditions, acknowledged by the ALJ, do not
demonstrate a lack of substantial evidence to discredit the testimony about the effects of those
conditions. Because the ALJ explicitly articulated adequate reasons to discredit the claimant’s
testimony, the ALJ properly applied the pain standard.
See Moore v. Astrue, 5:12-CV-00755-RDP, 2013 WL 1661435, at *8 (N.D. Ala. Apr. 11, 2013) (finding that the
ALJ could properly consider accepting unemployment benefits as a factor in determining the claimant’s credibility).
In Pollard v. Astrue, the court found the ALJ erred by relying on daily activities of dressing, cleaning and feeding
oneself to discredit the claimant’s pain testimony. 867 F. Supp. 2d 1225, 1232-33 (N.D. Ala. 2012). The court held
that cooking light meals and the ability “to do activities for about 30 minutes, at which time she had to rest/change
positions” were not inconsistent with debilitating back pain. Id. However, this case is distinguishable for two
reasons: (1) the claimant in the present case performed more demanding activities – two hour chores, full meals
daily, and various shopping trips, and (2) unlike in Pollard, the ALJ also articulated other adequate reasons for
discrediting the claimant’s testimony.
Weight of Opinions
Next, the claimant argues that the ALJ improperly attributed “significant weight” to the
opinion of Dr. Carmichael, a non-examining physician.
The court finds this argument
When weighting medical opinions, the ALJ “must accord ‘substantial’ or ‘considerable’
weight to the opinion of a claimant's treating physician unless ‘good cause’ is shown to the
Broughton v. Heckler, 776 F.2d 960, 961 (11th Cir. 1985) (citing Wiggins v.
Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir.1982)). Further, “the 'opinion of an examining
physician is generally entitled to more weight than the opinion of a non-examining physician.'"
Id. at 962 (quoting Oldham v. Schweiker, 660 F.2d 1078, 1084 (5th Cir.1981)). However, the
ALJ can reject a physician's opinions if he articulates specific reasons supported by substantial
evidence. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1212 (11th Cir.2005).
The claimant contends that Dr. Carmichael’s review was before Dr. Burnside’s treatment
of her and, thus, not based on all the evidence. In Pollard, the ALJ relied on two physician
opinions made before the claimant’s MRI. 867 F. Supp. 2d at 1231.
The MRI revealed
numerous thoracic and lumbar spinal irregularities, suggestions of Scheuermann’s kyphosis,
Schmorl’s nodes, degenerative disc disease, disc bulging, facet arthropathy, and central disc
Because their opinions were made without knowledge of these medical
conditions, the court held that “[t]o assign their opinions controlling weight while at the same
time rejecting the credibility of the plaintiff's pain testimony was error.” Id. at 1232. However,
in Poellnitz v. Astrue, the court affirmed the ALJ’s reliance on reviewing physicians’ opinions
“even in the light of the additional evidence submitted to the AC [Appeals Council].” 349 Fed.
App'x 500, 503 (11th Cir. 2009). The court reasoned that the additional evidence “comports
with the non-examining physicians' opinions.” Id.
The claimant never discloses to the court what exactly in Dr. Burnside’s treatment of her
is supposed to negate or conflict with Dr. Carmichael’s RFC assessment.
treatment of the claimant revealed a torn meniscus in her right knee, degenerative arthritis and a
Baker’s cyst. Dr. Carmichael notes in his report the claimant’s “neurofibromatosis of digit” and
“degenerative arthritis of knee.” He further notes that the claimant had knee surgery for a medial
meniscus tear. (R. 381). Unlike the MRI in Pollard, Dr. Burnside’s treatment did not reveal any
significant yet unknown medical condition. Dr. Carmichael was aware of and cited the patient’s
degenerative arthritis when giving his opinion. Further, a Baker’s cyst is a symptom of the
claimant’s arthritis.4 Again, the claimant does not explain – and the court sees no reason – why
the presence of this particular symptom should negate Dr. Carmichael’s assessment.
additional evidence was, thus, consistent with Dr. Carmichael’s opinion and “did not provide a
basis for disturbing the ALJ’s decision.” Poellnitz, 349 Fed. App'x at 503.
Finally, the claimant contends that the ALJ’s RFC determination is not based on
substantial evidence. The court disagrees.
The claimant asks the court “[d]oes the objective evidence of record substantiate … that
the [claimant] can stand or walk … for six hours of an eight hour work day?” However, the
claimant “bears the burden of proving that [she] is disabled, and, consequently, [she] is
responsible for producing evidence in support of [her] claim.” Ellison, 355 F.3d at 1276. In
proving the inability to return to past relevant work, the “regulations place a very heavy burden
See The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, available at
matoid_arthritis_ra.html#v905273 (last visited September 16, 2012).
on the claimant.” Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Spencer v.
Heckler, 765 F.2d 1090, 1093 (11th Cir.1985)).
After the ALJ also discredited the testimony of the claimant and a physician, the
Eleventh Circuit addressed similar circumstances:
Green argues that once the ALJ decided to discredit Dr. Bryant's evaluation, the
record lacked substantial evidence to support a finding that she could perform
light work. Dr. Bryant's evaluation, however, was the only evidence that Green
produced, other than her own testimony, that refuted the conclusion that she could
perform light work. Once the ALJ determined that no weight could be placed on
Dr. Bryant's opinion of . . . Green's limitations, the only documentary evidence
that remained was the office visit records from Dr. Bryant and Dr. Ross that
indicated that she was managing her respiration problems well, that she had
controlled her hypertension, and that her pain could be treated with over-thecounter medication. Thus, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination
that Green could perform light work.
Green v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 Fed. App'x 915, 923-24 (11th Cir. 2007).
In the present case, after the ALJ discredited the testimony of the claimant and the
opinion of Dr. Gulati,5 the claimant could not refute the ALJ’s determination that she had the
ability to perform medium work. Furthermore, the opinion of Dr. Carmichael provides direct
support for the ALJ’s findings. Therefore, substantial evidence supports the RFC determination
of the ALJ. See id. at 924.
For the reasons stated above, this court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner
is supported by substantial evidence and is to be AFFIRMED. The court will enter a separate
order to that effect simultaneously.
The Claimant does not argue that the ALJ erred in rejecting Dr. Gulati’s opinion of the claimant’s capabilities. See
Moore, 405 F.3d at 1212 (stating that the ALJ may discredit a physician’s opinions if he cites adequate reasons).
DONE and ORDERED this 25th day of September 2013.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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