Massenburg v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 3/8/2018. (PSM)
2018 Mar-08 AM 10:29
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DEBRA FRANCE MASSENBURG, )
Commissioner of Social Security,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The plaintiff, Debra France Massenburg, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
her applications for a period of disability, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”),
and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Ms. Massenburg timely pursued and
exhausted her administrative remedies and the decision of the Commissioner is
ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Ms. Massenburg was 57 years old at the time of the Administrative Law
Judge’s (“ALJ’s”) decision, and she has a high school education. (Tr. at 32.) Her
past work experiences include employment as a mattress salesperson, telemarketer,
secretary, and mortgage loan officer. (Tr. at 48-49, 203, 210-13, 227-33.) Ms.
Massenburg claims that she became disabled on April 14, 2013, due to chronic
stress syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), major depression with
psychosis, agoraphobia, panic disorder, memory loss, and cervical degenerative
disease with multiple levels of foraminal stenosis. (Tr. at 30, 203.)
The Social Security Administration has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled and thus
eligible for DIB or SSI. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Doughty v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in
order until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if no finding is made,
the analysis will proceed to the next step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to determine whether the
plaintiff is engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”).
See id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the
evaluator moves on to the next step.
The second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined severity of
the plaintiff’s medically determinable physical and mental impairments. See id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An individual impairment or combination of
impairments that is not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy the durational
requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding
of not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The
decision depends on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart v.
Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971) (concluding that “substantial medical
evidence in the record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff was not
Similarly, the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff’s impairment or combination of impairments meets or is medically equal
to the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed
impairment and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509
and 416.909 are satisfied, the evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the plaintiff’s impairment or combination of impairments does not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment, the evaluator must determine the plaintiff’s
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to the fourth step. See id.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). The fourth step requires the evaluator to determine
whether the plaintiff has the RFC to perform the requirements of his past relevant
See id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
If the plaintiff’s
impairment or combination of impairments does not prevent him from performing
his past relevant work, the evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See id.
The fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the plaintiff’s
RFC, age, education, and work experience in order to determine whether the
plaintiff can make an adjustment to other work. See id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can perform other work, the evaluator will find
him not disabled. Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff
cannot perform other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g), 416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.920(g).
Applying the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Ms.
Massenburg met the insured status requirements through the date of her decision.
(Tr. at 12.) She further determined that Ms. Massenburg has not engaged in SGA
since the alleged onset of her disability. (Id.) According to the ALJ, Plaintiff’s
anxiety disorder and an affective disorder are considered “severe” based on the
requirements set forth in the regulations. (Tr. at 13.) However, she found that these
impairments neither meet nor medically equal any of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff
had the following RFC: she can perform a full range of work at all exertional levels
with the following nonexertional limitations: she can understand and remember
simple instructions, can carry out short and simple instructions, and attend and
concentrate for two-hour periods to complete an eight-hour workday on simple
tasks with customary breaks and rests during the regular workday. (Tr. at 15.) In
addition, the ALJ found that interaction and contact with the general public should
be casual, criticism and feedback from supervisors and coworkers should be casual,
and changes in the workplace should be gradually introduced. (Id.)
According to the ALJ, Ms. Massenburg is unable to perform any of her past
relevant work, she is an “individual closely approaching advanced age,” and she
has a “high school education and is able to communicate in English” as those
terms are defined by the regulations. (Tr. at 18-19.) Enlisting the aid of a Vocational
Expert (“VE”) and using Medical-Vocational Rule 201.25 as a guideline, the ALJ
found that there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that
Plaintiff is capable of performing, such as hand packager, janitor, and a warehouse
worker. (Id.) The ALJ concluded her findings by stating that Plaintiff “was not
under a ‘disability,’ as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the
date of this decision.” (Tr. at 20.)
Standard of Review
This Court’s role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act
is a narrow one. The scope of its review is limited to determining (1) whether there
is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Stone
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 544 F. App’x 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)). This Court gives
deference to the factual findings of the Commissioner, provided those findings are
supported by substantial evidence, but applies close scrutiny to the legal
conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
Nonetheless, this Court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210
(11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir.
“The substantial evidence standard permits administrative decision
makers to act with considerable latitude, and ‘the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative
agency’s finding from being supported by substantial evidence.’” Parker v. Bowen,
793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J., dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed.
Mar. Comm’n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if this Court finds that the
proof preponderates against the Commissioner’s decision, it must affirm if the
decision is supported by substantial evidence. Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400 (citing Martin
v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
However, no decision is automatic, for “despite th[e] deferential standard
[for review of claims], it is imperative that th[is] Court scrutinize the record in its
entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached.” Bridges v.
Bowen, 815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Arnold v. Heckler, 732 F.2d 881,
883 (11th Cir. 1984)). Moreover, failure to apply the correct legal standards is
grounds for reversal. See Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir. 1984).
Ms. Massenburg argues that the Commissioner’s decision should be
reversed and remanded for two reasons: (1) the ALJ failed to give enough weight to
the opinion of her treating psychiatrist, and (2) the ALJ did not afford proper
consideration to her subjective complaints of pain.
Weight to Treating Psychiatrist’s Opinion
As a general matter, the weight afforded to a medical opinion regarding the
nature and severity of a claimant’s impairments depends upon, among other things,
the examining and treating relationship the medical source had with the claimant,
the evidence the medical source presents to support the opinion, how consistent
the opinion is with the record as a whole, and the specialty of the medical source.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Within the classification of acceptable
medical sources are the following different types of sources that are entitled to
different weights of opinion: 1) a treating source, or a primary physician, which is
defined in the regulations as “your physician, psychologist, or other acceptable
medical source who provides you, or has provided you, with medical treatment or
evaluation and who has, or has had, an ongoing treatment relationship with you;”
2) a non-treating source, or a consulting physician, which is defined as “a
physician, psychologist, or other acceptable medical source who has examined you
but does not have, or did not have, an ongoing treatment relationship with you;”
and 3) a non-examining source, which is a “a physician, psychologist, or other
acceptable medical source who has not examined you but provides a medical or
other opinion in your case . . . includ[ing] State agency medical and psychological
consultants . . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1502. The regulations and case law set forth a
general preference for treating sources’ opinions over those of non-treating
sources, and non-treating sources over non-examining sources. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(d)(2); Ryan v. Heckler, 762 F.2d 939, 942 (11th Cir. 1985). Thus, the
opinions of a one-time examiner or of a non-examining source are not entitled to
any deference. McSwain v. Bowen, 814 F.2d 617, 619 (11th Cir. 1987). Further, an
ALJ “may reject the opinion of any physician when the evidence supports a
contrary conclusion.” McCloud v. Barnhart, 166 F. App’x 410, 418–19 (11th Cir.
2006) (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1240 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Procedurally, the ALJ must articulate the weight given to different medical
opinions and the reasons therefore. See Winschel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d
1176, 1179 (11th Cir. 2011).
A treating physician’s testimony is entitled to “substantial or considerable
weight unless ‘good cause’ is shown to the contrary.” Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1159
(quoting Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997)) (internal
quotations omitted). “Good cause” for discounting a treating physician’s opinion
exists when: (1) the treating physician’s opinion is not bolstered by the evidence;
(2) the evidence supports a contrary finding; or (3) the opinion is conclusory or
inconsistent with the doctor’s own medical records. Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1241 (citing
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440); see also Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 583-84 (11th
Cir. 1991) (holding that “good cause” existed where the opinion was contradicted
by other notations in the physician’s own record).
Further, opinions such as whether a claimant is disabled, the claimant’s
RFC, and the application of vocational factors “are not medical opinions, . . . but
are, instead, opinions on issues reserved to the Commissioner because they are
administrative findings that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the
determination or decision of disability.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e), 416.927(d).
The Court is interested in a physician’s evaluation of a plaintiff’s “condition and
the medical consequences thereof, not their opinions of the legal consequences of
his [or her] condition.” Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440. Such statements by a physician are
relevant to the ALJ’s findings, but they are not determinative, as it is the ALJ who
bears the responsibility for assessing a claimant’s RFC. See, e.g., 20 C.F.R. §
Dr. M. Elizabeth Lachman, a psychiatrist, indicated that Plaintiff had been
under her care since October 2012. (Tr. at 363, 365). However, there are no
treatment records prior to September 2013, when Dr. Lachman provided a report
that she characterized as a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. (Tr. at 353-57,
366-69). Plaintiff reported to her a history of being physically and verbally abused
by both of her husbands and experiencing the deaths of both parents and a sibling.
(Tr. at 353-55, 366-69). Plaintiff also reported that she had found her fiancé of three
years dead in bed in March 2013. (Tr. at 355, 367). Although the report contained
no actual mental status evaluation or observations, Dr. Lachman diagnosed Plaintiff
with major depressive disorder, recurrent, without psychotic features; PTSD;
panic disorder with agoraphobia; and multiple biopsychosocial stressors. (Tr. at
353, 369). Dr. Lachman assigned a global assessment of functioning score (“GAF”)
of 41, and opined Plaintiff would not be able to work for at least the next 12 months.
(Tr. at 353, 357, 369). GAF scores in the range of 41-50 suggest “serious symptoms
(e.g., suicidal ideation, severe obsessional rituals, frequent shoplifting) or any
serious impairment in social occupational, or school functioning (e.g., no friends,
unable to keep job).” American Psychiatric Ass’n, Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual—Text Revision 34 (4th ed. 2000) (“DSM-IV-TR”).
Although Dr. Lachman indicated that she saw Plaintiff for follow ups every
one-to-two months and treated her with pharmacotherapy and individual
psychotherapy (tr. at 365), she provided no contemporaneous notes of these visits.
Instead, Dr. Lachman completed three more reports, which are characterized as
comprehensive psychiatric evaluations, in January 2014, August 2014, and May
2015. (Tr. at 363-65, 371-72, 443-45). In the January 2014 report, Dr. Lachman
suggested that Plaintiff’s symptoms “predispose her to a high safety risk in an
occupational setting,” that further attempts to return to work would lead to
worsening of her overall functioning, and that she needed to focus on her mental
health and treatment full time. (Tr. at 365, 372, 445). Dr. Lachman repeated similar
language in the August 2014 and May 2015 reports. (Tr. at 363, 443.) In all three
reports, Dr. Lachman opined that Plaintiff’s “psychiatric symptoms led to a
marked, severe, and sometimes extreme degree of impairment in all areas related to
occupational functioning.” (Tr. at 363, 365, 372, 443). Dr. Lachman also suggested
that Plaintiff would not be able to work for at least 12 to 24 months, if not
permanently. (Tr. at 363, 365, 372, 443, 445).
The ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Lachman’s opinions. (Tr. at 18).
Substantial evidence in the record supports this conclusion and provides that the
ALJ had good cause to do so. First, the ALJ noted that Dr. Lachman’s opinions
were unsupported by her treatment notes, since they contained no objective clinical
evidence and suggested that Plaintiff was compliant with her treatment regimen
with no reported medication side effects. (Tr. at 16, 363-72, 443- 47). As the ALJ
noted, although Dr. Lachman indicated that she saw Plaintiff for follow ups every
one to two months and treated her with pharmacotherapy and individual
psychotherapy (tr. at 365), she provided no contemporaneous notes of these visits.
Instead, Dr. Lachman completed three reports that contain substantially the same
verbiage and summarize Plaintiff’s symptoms, list diagnoses, and suggest she is
unable to work. (Tr. at 17, 363-65, 371-72, 443-45). The ALJ also found the extreme
limitations espoused by Dr. Lachman to be inconsistent with the fact that she had
treated Plaintiff conservatively and never recommended any type of inpatient
treatment or hospitalization. (Tr. at 18). The ALJ also found that Dr. Lachman’s
opinions that Plaintiff would be unable to work were on an issue reserved to the
Commissioner and not entitled to any special weight or significance. (Tr. at 18).
Additionally, the ALJ considered that Dr. Lachman’s assessment of marked,
severe, and extreme limitations in all areas of functioning were inconsistent with
Plaintiff’s self-reported activities. (Tr. at 18). Although Plaintiff attempted to
minimize her activities at her hearing (tr. at 31-45), she previously reported in a
function report that she engaged in various activities of daily living, such as
preparing her own meals, doing the laundry, washing dishes, cleaning, going for
walks, driving to the store by herself, taking care of her pets, and visiting her son
and friends. (Tr. at 219-22, 361-62). Plaintiff also indicated that she engaged in a
number of hobbies, including watching television, gardening, sightseeing, bird
watching, and going to the lake. (Tr. at 223). Contrary to Dr. Lachman’s
suggestion that Plaintiff would be unable to work with colleagues or accept
supervision, Plaintiff previously reported no problems getting along with family,
friends, neighbors, and others; getting along “very well” with authority figures;
and never being fired or laid off of a job because of problems getting along with
other people. (Tr. at 224-25).
The ALJ also properly noted that Dr. Lachman’s opinions were not
consistent with the other medical opinions of record, including those of Dr. Mary
Arnold, a psychologist, who performed a consultative psychological evaluation of
Plaintiff in October 2013 (tr. at 359-62), and State agency psychiatric consultant,
Dr. Robert Estock, who did not examine Plaintiff but reviewed the record and
completed a mental functional capacity assessment in November 2013. (Tr. at 7579).
Dr. Arnold’s mental status evaluation—something that Dr. Lachman did not
do—reported that Plaintiff’s mood was anxious and she was tearful when speaking
of loss of family and friends. (Tr. at 360). With regard to cognition, Dr. Arnold
noted that Plaintiff was alert and oriented in all spheres and was able to recite the
months of the year backwards, repeat six digits forwards and four digits backwards,
perform simple calculations, and recalled three of three objects after a five-minute
delay. (Tr. at 361). Dr. Arnold estimated her intelligence as low average with no
evidence of cognitive deficits. (Tr. at 361). Dr. Arnold diagnosed Plaintiff with
caffeine dependence; anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified; PTSD; and major
depressive disorder, recurrent. (Tr. at 362). Dr. Arnold assigned a GAF score of
54, which indicates no more than moderate limitations. (Tr. at 362). See also DSMIV-TR at p. 34. Dr. Arnold opined that Plaintiff had no more than moderate
limitations of function. (Tr. at 359-62).
In giving Dr. Arnold’s opinion great weight, the ALJ noted that it was
consistent with Dr. Estock’s assessment. After reviewing Dr. Lachman’s
September 2013 report and Dr. Arnold’s consultative evaluation, Dr. Estock
assessed Plaintiff with affective and anxiety-related disorders that resulted in
moderate restriction of activities of daily living, moderate difficulties maintaining
social functioning, and moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration
persistence, and pace. (Tr. at 75). Dr. Estock also opined that Plaintiff was able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; attend and concentrate
for two-hour work periods on simple tasks with customary breaks and rest during
the regular workday; have casual contact with the general public; and receive
casual, non-confronting, and supportive criticism and feedback from supervisors
and co-workers. (Tr. at 77-78). State agency consultants are highly qualified
specialists who are experts in Social Security disability programs, and their
opinions may be entitled to great weight if the evidence supports their opinions. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(2)(i), 416.927(e)(2)(i); Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
96-6p. It was thus reasonable for the ALJ to consider Dr. Estock’s opinion. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(4), 416.927(c)(4); Crow v. Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 571 F.
App’x 802, 807 (11th Cir. 2014) (ALJ did not err in weighing medical evidence
where non-examining physician’s opinion was consistent with the record).
Because it was unsupported by treatment notes and inconsistent with other
medical opinions in the record, the ALJ had good cause to discount the opinion of
Plaintiff testified at her hearing that she experiences recurring dreams about
her fiancé dying in her arms and that she hallucinates in her dreams. (Tr. at 32-33).
She explained that extreme fear overcomes her at unexpected times and she cannot
perform what she was doing. (Tr. at 33). She said that stress triggers her panic
attacks. (Tr. at 34). Plaintiff further testified that she experiences memory loss
which she attributes to chemotherapy she underwent for breast cancer. (Id.)
According to the Plaintiff, she cannot focus and her mind “is just everywhere.”
(Tr. at 41).
When a plaintiff attempts to prove disability based on her subjective
complaints, she must provide evidence of an underlying medical condition and
either objective medical evidence confirming the severity of her alleged symptoms
or evidence establishing that her medical condition could be reasonably expected to
give rise to her alleged symptoms. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.929d(a), (b); Social Security
Ruling (“SSR”) 96-7p; Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, at 1225–26 (11th Cir.
2002). If the objective medical evidence does not confirm the severity of the
claimant’s alleged symptoms but the claimant establishes that she has an
impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce her alleged symptoms,
the ALJ must evaluate the intensity and persistence of the claimant’s alleged
symptoms and their effect on her ability to work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.929(c), (d);
SSR 96-7p; Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1225-26. This entails the ALJ determining a
claimant’s credibility with regard to the allegations of pain and other symptoms.
The ALJ must “[explicitly articulate] the reasons justifying a decision to
discredit a claimant’s subjective pain testimony.” Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
1208, 1212 n.4 (11th Cir. 2005). “When the reasoning for discrediting is explicit
and supported by substantial evidence, “the record will not be disturbed by a
reviewing court.” Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1562 (11th Cir. 1995). The
Commissioner’s regulations set forth the following factors an ALJ should consider
when evaluating a claimant’s symptoms: (1) the claimant’s daily activities; (2) the
location, duration, frequency, and intensity of the pain; (3) any precipitating and
aggravating factors; (4) medications taken to alleviate pain, including side effects
and effectiveness; (5) treatment received to relieve pain; and (6) any other
measures the claimant uses to relieve pain. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3); SSR 16-3p,
2016 WL 1119029, at *7 (2016). The ALJ evaluates these factors in connection with
the other evidence in the record to make a credibility determination. 20 C.F.R. §
In the present case, the ALJ found the “claimant’s medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms.” (Tr. at
15). She then determined the “claimant’s statements concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible.” (Id.)
The ALJ articulated several reasons for refusing to credit Plaintiff’s testimony, all
of which are supported by substantial evidence in the record. The ALJ stated that
despite Plaintiff’s complaints of disabling mental limitations, Plaintiff responded to
conservative treatment and the record does not contain incidences of inpatient
hospitalization or emergency treatment for mental conditions. (Tr. at 16.) Although
Plaintiff sought emergency room treatment for various complaints, it was always
for physical impairments. For instance, Plaintiff presented to the emergency
department of Marshall Medical Center-South in December 2014 after injuring her
left shoulder in a car accident. (Tr. at 376, 382). On examination of the left
shoulder, Plaintiff had moderate tenderness and limited range of motion due to
pain. (Tr. at 377). X-rays of the left shoulder revealed no evidence of fracture or
dislocation. (Tr. at 377, 386). The attending physician diagnosed Plaintiff with
tendonitis of the left shoulder. (Tr. at 378). Plaintiff presented to Huntsville
Hospital in January 2015 with complaints of chest pain, neck pain, and numbness in
her arms and legs. (Tr. at 395). A chest x-ray revealed no acute cardiopulmonary
process. (Tr. at 416). An MRI of the cervical spine revealed multilevel spondylosis
and degenerative disc disease, most severe at C6-7. (Tr. at 403-04, 415). The
attending physician diagnosed Plaintiff with acute chest pain and spinal stenosis in
the cervical region. (Tr. at 408). In March 2015, Plaintiff presented to the
emergency department at Crestwood Medical Center with complaints of high
blood pressure and a pinched nerve in her neck. (Tr. at 429). The attending
physician observed that Plaintiff’s behavior was appropriate and she interacted
appropriately with others and was in no apparent distress. (Tr. at 432). The
attending physician diagnosed Plaintiff with uncontrolled hypertension and
arthroplasty and prescribed medication. (Tr. at 430).
The ALJ also noted that despite Ms. Massenburg’s complaints of disabling
mental limitations, her participation in several daily activities suggests that she may
not be accurately reporting her symptoms or they are not present at the severity
indicated. (Tr. at 17, 219-22, 361-62.) While not dispositive, an ALJ may consider a
claimant’s self-reported daily activities in determining whether subjective
complaints of pain are credible. See Dyer, 395 F.3d at 1212.
The ALJ also considered that both Dr. Arnold and Dr. Estock found that
Plaintiff had no more than moderate limitations of mental functioning. (Tr. at 17,
75-79, 359-62). Plaintiff was often described as cooperative, oriented in all spheres,
cordial with others, and in no apparent distress. (Tr. at 14, 17, 219-26, 358-62, 42930.)
In arguing that the ALJ failed to give appropriate weight to her testimony,
Plaintiff argues again that the ALJ should have accepted Dr. Lachman’s testimony.
However, as previously discussed, the ALJ had good cause for giving Dr.
Lachman’s opinions little weight. For all of the above reasons, the ALJ’s credibility
determination was supported by substantial evidence.
Upon review of the administrative record, and considering all of Ms.
Massenburg’s arguments, the Court finds the Commissioner’s decision is
supported by substantial evidence and in accord with the applicable law. A separate
order will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED on March 8, 2018.
L. Scott Coogler
United States District Judge
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