Steele v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Staci G Cornelius on 9/18/15. (MRR )
2015 Sep-18 PM 01:07
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
Case No.: 5:14-cv-01038-SGC
The plaintiff, Cindy Steele, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying her applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).
Steele timely pursued and
exhausted her administrative remedies, and the Commissioner’s decision is ripe for review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons discussed below, the
Commissioner’s decision is due to be affirmed.
I. Procedural History
Steele has a high school education and has previously worked as a nurse aide, cashier,
short order cook, truck driver, and garbage truck driver. (Tr. at 13-37, 241-45, 246, 256). In her
applications for DIB and SSI, Steele alleged she became disabled on July 19, 2010, as a result of
fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (“COPD”), and pancreatitis. (Id. at 215, 217, 255). After her claims were
denied, Steele requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 142-61,
175). Following a hearing, the ALJ denied Steele’s claims. (Id. at 86-96). Steele was 51 years
The parties have consented to the exercise of full dispositive jurisdiction by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 15).
old when the ALJ issued his decision. (Id. at 96, 215). After the Appeals Council declined to
review the ALJ’s decision (id. at 2-4), that decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner, see Frye v. Massanari, 209 F. Supp. 2d 1246, 1251 N.D. Ala. 2001) (citing Falge
v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998)). Thereafter, Steele initiated this action. (Doc. 1).
II. Statutory and Regulatory Framework
To establish her eligibility for disability benefits, a claimant must show “the inability to
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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§
416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A); see also id. at § 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a),
416.905(a). Furthermore, a DIB claimant must show she was disabled between her alleged
initial onset date and her date last insured. Mason v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 430 Fed. App’x 830,
831 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1209, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005); Demandre
v. Califano, 591 F.2d 1088, 1090 (5th Cir. 1979)). The Social Security Administration employs a
five-step sequential analysis to determine an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial
Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i).
“Under the first step, the
claimant has the burden to show that she is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity.”
Reynolds-Buckley v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 457 Fed. App’x 862, 863 (11th Cir. 2012). If the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) and (b), 416.920(a)(4)(i) and (b). At the first step, the
ALJ determined Steele met the Social Security Administration’s insured status requirements
through September 30, 2015, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date of July 19, 2010. (Tr. at 88).
If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner must next
determine whether the claimant suffers from a severe physical or mental impairment or
combination of impairments that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at
least twelve months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An impairment “must
result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Furthermore, it “must be
established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only
by [the claimant’s] statement of symptoms.” Id. at §§ 404.908, 416.908; see also 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D). An impairment is severe if it “significantly limits [the claimant’s]
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities . . . .”
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c).2 “[A]n impairment can be considered as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality
which has such a minimal effect on the individual that it would not be expected to interfere with
the individual’s ability to work, irrespective of age, education, or work experience.” Brady v.
Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 920 (11th Cir. 1984); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a), 416.921(a). A
claimant may be found disabled based on a combination of impairments, even though none of the
individual impairments alone is disabling. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1523, 416.923. The claimant bears
the burden of providing medical evidence demonstrating an impairment and its severity. Id. at
Basic work activities include:
(1) [p]hysical functions such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching,
carrying, or handling; (2) [c]apacities for seeking, hearing, and speaking; (3) [u]nderstanding,
carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; (4) [u]se of judgment; (5) [r]esponding
appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations; and (6) [d]ealing with changes
in a routine work setting.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b), 416.921(b).
§§ 404.1512(a) and (c), 416.912(a) and (c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. at §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) and (c). At the second step, the ALJ determined
Steele has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, a history of COPD, fibromyalgia,
major depressive disorder, degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, coronary
artery disease status post coronary angioplasty and stent placement, and arthritic changes to the
first carpal metacarpal joint space of the hands bilaterally. (Tr. at 89).
If the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the
Commissioner must then determine whether the impairment meets or equals one of the
“Listings” found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii); see also id. at §§ 404.1525-26, 416.925-26. The claimant bears the burden of
proving her impairment meets or equals one of the Listings. Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed. App’x
at 863. If the claimant’s impairment meets or equals one of the Listings, the Commissioner will
find the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) and (d), 416.920(a)(4)(iii) and (d).
At the third step, the ALJ determined Steele does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the Listings. (Tr. at 89).
If the claimant’s impairment does not meet or equal one of the Listings, the
Commissioner must determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before
proceeding to the fourth step. Id. at §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e); see also id. at §§ 404.1545,
416.945. A claimant’s RFC is the most she can do despite her impairments. See id. §§
At the fourth step, the Commissioner will compare his
assessment of the claimant’s RFC with the physical and mental demands of the claimant’s past
relevant work. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and (e), 404.1560(b), 416.920(a)(4)(iv) and (e),
416.960(b). “Past relevant work is work that [the claimant] [has] done within the past 15 years,
that was substantial gainful activity, and that lasted long enough for [the claimant] to learn to do
Id. §§ 404.1560(b)(1), 416.960(b)(1).
The claimant bears the burden of proving her
impairment prevents her from performing her past relevant work. Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed.
App’x at 863. If the claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work, the Commissioner
will find the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1560(b)(3),
416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.960(b)(3). Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined
Steele has the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b),3 except she can occasionally bend, balance, crawl, stoop, kneel, and crouch; should
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, work around unprotected heights, dangerous machinery,
uneven surfaces, or large bodies of water, or in an environment requiring commercial driving;
and should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, heat, wetness, fumes, odors, dust, and
gases. (Tr. at 90). The ALJ further found Steele can make simple work-related decisions, handle
few workplace changes, and tolerate occasional interaction with others, although not in close
proximity. (Id.). At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Steele is unable to perform her past
relevant work. (Id. at 94).
If the claimant is unable to perform her past relevant work, the Commissioner must
finally determine whether the claimant is capable of performing other work that exists in
substantial numbers in the national economy in light of the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and
work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1), 404.1560(c)(1), 416.920(a)(4)(v)
and (g)(1), 416.960(c)(1).
If the claimant is capable of performing other work, the
“Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing
up to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good
deal of walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg
controls.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b).
Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1),
416.920(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1).
If the claimant is not capable of performing other work, the
Commissioner will find the claimant is disabled. Id. At the fifth step, considering Steele’s age,
education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Steele can perform, such as those of hotel housekeeper,
fabric puller, and laundry folder. (Tr. at 95). Therefore, the ALJ concluded Steele is not
disabled. (Id. at 96).
III. Standard of Review
Review of the Commissioner’s decision is limited to a determination of whether that
decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner applied correct
legal standards. Crawford v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). A
district court must review the Commissioner’s findings of fact with deference and may not
reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Ingram v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007);
Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Rather, a district 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) (internal
citations omitted). 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. A district court must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence, even if the preponderance of the evidence is against those findings. Miles v. Chater,
84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
A district court reviews the Commissioner’s legal conclusions de novo. Davis v. Shalala,
985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). “The [Commissioner’s] failure to apply the correct law or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the proper legal
analysis has been conducted mandates reversal.” Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991).
On appeal, Steele raises two issues. First, she argues the ALJ and the Appeals Council
erred in failing to review her fibromyalgia under SSR 12-2p, a new social security ruling issued
between the date of the hearing and the date on which the ALJ issued his decision. (Doc. 12 at
12-19). Second, she argues the ALJ’s assessment of her RFC is not supported by substantial
evidence. (Id. at 19-21).
A. SSR 12-2p
SSR 12-2p became effective on July 25, 2012, after the hearing before the ALJ but before
the ALJ issued his decision. That social security ruling provides guidance for developing
evidence to establish a claimant has a medically determinable impairment of fibromyalgia and
evaluating fibromyalgia in the context of a disability claim. See SSR 12-2p. It clarifies that
because fibromyalgia cannot meet a Listing (because it is not a listed impairment), at step three
of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ determines whether it medically equals a Listing, alone or
in combination with other severe impairments. See id. Steele claims the ALJ and the Appeals
Council failed to analyze whether her fibromyalgia, alone or in combination with her other
severe impairments, meets or equals one of the Listings in contravention of SSR 12-2p. (Doc. 12
at 12-14). This allegation is an assumption based on the lack of reference to SSR 12-2p in the
ALJ’s decision and the explicit discussion in that decision of whether several of Steele’s other
severe impairments met or equaled a Listing. However, “it is not required that the [ALJ]
mechanically recite the evidence leading to [his] determination.” Hutchison v. Bowen, 787 F.2d
1461, 1463 (11th Cir. 1986). See also Johnson v. Barnhart, 148 Fed. App’x 838, 842 (11th Cir.
2005); Keane v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 205 Fed. App’x 748, 750 (11th Cir. 2006); Gray ex rel.
Whymss v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 454 Fed. App’x 748, 750 (11th Cir. 2011); Kalishek v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 470 Fed. App’x 868, 870 (11th Cir. 2012). Furthermore, a determination that a
claimant’s impairments do not meet or equal a Listing may be implied from an ALJ’s decision.
Hutchison, 787 F.2d at 1463; Johnson, 148 Fed. App’x at 842; Keane, 205 Fed. App’x at 750;
Gray ex rel. Whymms, 454 Fed. App’x at 750; Kalishek, 470 Fed. App’x at 870.
Steele argues against any implicit finding at step three of the sequential evaluation on the
grounds a court cannot review an implicit finding without more particular findings as to how a
claimant’s impairment relates to the Listings. (Doc. 12 at 15). The substance of her argument
tracks the reasoning of Judge Clark’s dissent in Hutchison. See 787 F.2d at 1466-68. The
position for which she advocates is not the law of this circuit. Steele further argues the only
cases in which an ALJ was credited with an implicit finding at step three of the sequential
evaluation are those where it was clear the ALJ was familiar with the relevant social security
ruling or Listing. (Doc. 12 at 16). Steele cites no authority for this argument. Regardless, here,
it is clear that the ALJ considered the relevant law and evidence. Finally, Steele relies on Todd
v. Heckler, 736 F.2d 641 (11th Cir. 1984), and Holman v. Colvin, 2014 WL 4458902 (N.D. Ala.
Sept. 8, 2014) to support her argument the ALJ and Appeals Council committed error. (Doc. 12
at 15-16, 18-19). Both cases are distinguishable from the circumstances present here. In Todd,
the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s order affirming denial of SSI benefits where the
ALJ failed to consider Appendix 1 in making his disability determination. 736 F.2d at 642.
Here, the ALJ did not fail to consider Appendix 1. He explicitly determined Steele does not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals a Listing. (Tr. at 8990).
Holman addressed a disability determination where SSR 12-2p was issued after the ALJ’s
decision but before the Appeals Council denied review. See 2014 WL 4458902, at * 4. After
concluding the regulation applied to the ALJ’s decision because the claimant’s appeal was before
the Appeals Council for review after the effective date of the regulation, the court found that it
could not determine whether the ALJ would have reached a different decision with the benefit of
SSR 12-2p. Id. at *4-5. By contrast, here, SSR 12-2p became effective before the ALJ issued
The ALJ did not explicitly cite SSR 12-2p or discuss Steele’s fibromyalgia at step three
of the sequential evaluation.
However, he did explicitly determine Steele’s fibromyalgia
constituted a severe impairment, and that Steele did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled a Listing.
(Tr. at 89).
Implicit in the latter
determination is that Steele’s fibromyalgia, alone or in combination with her other severe
impairments, did not meet or equal a Listing.
Substantial evidence supports this implicit
“To ‘meet’ a Listing, a claimant must have a diagnosis included in the Listings and must
provide medical reports documenting that the conditions meet the specific criteria of the Listings
and the duration requirement.” Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing
20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(a)-(d)); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.925(a)-(d).4 “To ‘equal’ a Listing, the
medical findings must be ‘at least equal in severity and duration to the listed findings.’” Wilson,
As discussed, SSR 12-2p clarifies that fibromyalgia cannot meet a Listing because it is not a listed impairment.
See SSR 12-2p.
284 F.3d at 1224 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1526(a)); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a).
claimant’s impairment must meet or equal all of the specified medical criteria in a particular
Listing for the claimant to be found disabled at step three of the sequential evaluation. Sullivan
v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530-32 (1990). An impairment that manifests only some of the criteria
do not qualify, no matter how severe. Id. at 530. A claimant’s burden of proving her impairment
meets or equals a Listing is a heavy one because “the [L]istings were designed to operate as a
presumption of disability that makes further inquiry unnecessary.” Id. at 532.
The only Listing Steele identifies as being equaled by her fibromyalgia, alone or in
combination with her other severe impairments, is Listing 14.09D. (Doc. 12 at 17-18). That
Listing provides for disability where there are:
[r]epeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis, with at least two of the
constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary
weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:
1. Limitation of activities of daily living.
2. Limitation in maintaining social functioning.
3. Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in
concentration, persistence, or pace.
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1, § 14.09D. Although Steele’s medical records note a
diagnosis or reported history of fibromyalgia, they do not contain findings that her fibromyalgia
is at least equal in severity to the criteria of Listing 14.09D. (See Tr. at 323, 397, 399, 430, 43738, 441-42, 642-43, 646, 648, 738, 740, 742). In fact, a record of a visit Steele made to the
office of her primary care physician, Dr. Henry Beeler, in May of 2012 noted that while Steele
experienced constant pain as a result of her fibromyalgia, pain medication helped. (Id. at 662).
Steele claims Dr. Beeler found her impairments prevented her from performing even
unskilled, sedentary work. (Doc. 12 at 18). The finding to which she refers is the synthesis of a
physical RFC questionnaire signed by Dr. Beeler and a certified registered nurse practitioner
(“CRNP”). (Tr. at 690-94). Above her signature, the CRNP noted the questions regarding
Steele’s physical capacity (e.g., to what degree she could tolerate work stress, how long she
could sit at one time, how many days per moth she was likely to be absent from work on account
of her impairments) were answered per Steele’s report because Dr. Beeler’s office could not test
those things. (Id. at 694). Beneath his signature, Dr. Beeler noted Steele provided the answers to
the questions because his office had no way to make the measurements requested. (Id.). The
ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Beeler’s opinion because it was inconsistent with the objective
evidence and was based solely on Steele’s reports, as opposed to objective evidence. (Id. at 94).
Steele does not challenge the weight assigned to Dr. Beeler’s opinion. Regardless, the ALJ
properly discredited the opinion. An ALJ may disregard a treating physician’s opinion if he
articulates good cause for doing so. Winschel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1179 (11th
Cir. 2011). “Good cause exists ‘when the: (1) treating physician’s opinion was not bolstered by
the evidence; (2) evidence supported a contrary finding; or (3) treating physician’s opinion was
conclusory or inconsistent with the doctor’s own medical records.’” Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1179
(quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1241 (11th Cir. 2004)); see also Crawford v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1159 (11th Cir. 2004) (ALJ properly discounted treating
physician’s opinion claimant was disabled because, amongst other things, that opinion appeared
to be based primarily on claimant’s subjective complaints of pain). Here, the ALJ articulated
good cause for discrediting Dr. Beeler’s opinion.
In sum, the ALJ properly assessed whether Steele’s severe impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or equal a Listing, and his determination is supported by substantial evidence.
Accordingly, the Appeals Council did not err in declining to review the ALJ’s decision on
account of any error at step three of the sequential evaluation.
B. RFC Assessment
Steele argues that her impairments limit her to sedentary work at most which, given her
age when the ALJ issued his decision, requires a presumptive finding of disability under Grid
Rule 201.12. (Doc. 12 at 20).5 The Commissioner contends Steele has waived this argument by
failing to cite any record evidence that supports a contrary determination. (Doc. 13 at 11-12).
Whether the summary character of Steele’s argument warrants waiver, substantial evidence
supports the ALJ’s determination Steele has the RFC to perform light work with certain
A medical record dated October 1, 2010, noted Steele’s COPD was stable, and
examinations, x-rays, and CT scans performed between January of 2010 and January of 2013,
showed no persistent abnormalities in her lungs. (Tr. at 443, 455, 559, 561, 563, 650, 675, 687,
707, 765, 715, 744). The ALJ noted the record contained little diagnostic testing as to Steele’s
alleged neck, back, and hand pain. (Id. at 92). MRIs performed in October of 2010 revealed
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine. (Id. at 566, 569). X-rays of Steele’s
hands taken in October of 2010 showed arthritic changes of the first carpal and metacarpal joint
spaces. (Id. at 570-71). However, clinical examinations between January of 2010 and January
of 2013 showed Steele had a full range of motion in her extremities without any motor strength
The “Grids,” also known as the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, are found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
2. An ALJ may use them to determine at the fifth step whether other work exists in substantial numbers in the
national economy that a claimant is capable of performing. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1239 (11 th Cir.
The [G]rids provide for adjudicators to consider factors such as age, confinement to sedentary or
light work, inability to speak English, educational deficiencies, and lack of job experience. Each
of these factors can independently limit the number of jobs realistically available to an individual.
Combinations of these factors yield a statutorily-required finding of “Disabled” or “Not Disabled.”
Id. at 1240; see also Gibson v. Heckler, 762 F.2d 1516, 1520 (11 th Cir. 1985). Grid Rule 201.12 provides that an
individual between the ages of 50 and 54 with a high school education and a history of unskilled work who is
limited to sedentary work is disabled. 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 2, § 201.12.
deficit and a normal gait. (Id. at 452, 564, 579, 591, 742, 758). A record of a clinical
examination performed in October of 2010 described Steele’s cervical disc degeneration as
stable and noted that she had no atrophy, crepitus, or deformities of the cervical spine. (Id. at
558-59, 561, 564). A medical record dated December 13, 2010, noted with respect to the pain
Steele reported to experience as a result of her degenerative disc disease, that Steele had had an
excellent response to cervical epidural steroid injections, which resolved her cervical and arm
pain. (Id. at 579; see also id. at 561). An examination performed on that same date noted Steele
had no straight-leg raising. (Id.). In May of 2012, Dr. Beeler’s CRNP noted Steele’s diabetes
mellitus was currently controlled and that while the pain from her fibromyalgia was constant,
pain medication helped. (Id. at 662).
In July of 2010, after a cardiac catheterization revealed 95% stenosis of her right
coronary artery, Steele underwent an angioplasty. (Id. at 432, 461). A stent placed in her right
coronary artery reduced the stenosis to 0%. (Id. at 461, 480). Subsequent clinical examinations
showed Steele’s coronary artery disease was stable and did not reveal any heart abnormalities.
(Id. at 559, 562-63). In July of 2012, a cardiac catheterization revealed re-stenosis of Steele’s
right coronary artery, as a result of which she underwent another angioplasty. (Id. at 704, 72425). Steele presented with chest pain and shortness of breath in January of 2013, claiming she
had not returned to “base level” after her last angioplasty. (Id. at 740). However, a chest x-ray
showed no active disease, a clinical examination demonstrated a regular heart rate and rhythm
and no murmurs, and a cardiac catheterization revealed the stent in Steele’s right coronary artery
to be widely patent. (Id. at 742, 744, 747).
Finally, the ALJ found that Steele’s daily activities were inconsistent with disabling
levels of pain. (Id. at 93). He noted that while Steele claimed she could only lift 10 pounds,
walk 100 feet, and pay attention for five minutes, the record demonstrated she was able to live
independently in her own residence, care for her personal needs without assistance, prepare
simple meals, do laundry and household chores without assistance, shop in stores, drive two or
three times each week, attend church at least four times each month, read, watch television, go to
doctors’ appointments and the grocery store on a regular basis, and get along with others. (Id.).
These findings are consistent with Steele’s testimony. (Id. at 109-10, 115-19). The ALJ further
noted Steele continued to work after the alleged onset date of her disability. (Id. at 93-94).
Steele testified that she tried to work as a nurse aide for five or six weeks beginning in April of
2012. (Id. at 122-23). The ALJ found Steele’s attempts to work after the alleged onset date of
her disability suggest she is capable of performing greater activity than alleged. (Id. at 93-94).
Finally, the ALJ noted that despite her allegation that she only had a 20% grip and could not hold
a pen to write, Steele completed her disability paperwork without assistance. (Id. at 93). This
appears to be true. (See id. at 276-83).
Because substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s determination Steele has the RFC to
perform a reduced range of light work, Grid Rule 201.12 does not apply to this case.
Having reviewed the administrative record and considered all of the arguments presented
by the parties, the undersigned find the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence and in accordance with applicable law.
Therefore, that decision is due to be
AFFIRMED. A separate order will be entered.
DONE this 18th day of September, 2015.
STACI G. CORNELIUS
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?