George v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER affirming the final decision of the Commissioner and dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 9/29/11. (hph)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JAMES L. GEORGE
NO. 1:10CV00038 JTR
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, James L. George, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration denying his claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both parties have submitted
Appeal Briefs (docket entries #12, #13).
Judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits examines whether the
decision is based on legal error, and whether the findings of fact are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 963 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). In its review, the Court
should consider evidence supporting the Commissioner’s decision as well as evidence
detracting from it. Wildman, 596 F.3d at 964. A decision will not be reversed merely
because substantial evidence would have also supported a contrary outcome, or
because the Court would have reached a different conclusion. Id.
On August 13, 2007, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of July 1, 2007. (Tr. 94, 97, 107-08, 142.) He reported
that he was unable to work due to hepatitis C, back problems and diabetes. (Tr. 111.)
He was forty-nine years old at the time of his applications, had completed high school
and two years of college, and had worked full-time as a painter and repairman from
1992 to 2007.1 (Tr. 26-28, 112.)
After his claims were denied at the initial and reconsideration levels, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). On May 7, 2009, the
ALJ conducted an administrative hearing, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert
testified. (Tr. 23-43.)
The ALJ considered Plaintiff’s impairments by way of the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation process. Step 1 involves a determination of whether the
claimant is involved in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) &
(b), 416.920(a)(4)(i) & (b). If the claimant is, benefits are denied, regardless of
In a disability report filed during the application process, Plaintiff stated that his
disabling conditions first interfered with his ability to work in 2002 and that he had to
stop working in August 2007 because he “just could not do [his] job any more.” (Tr.
112.) He indicated he tired easily, could not climb a ladder, needed help on the job, and
took three days to do a job that normally took one day. (Tr. 111-12.) Finally, he reported
that he had back and leg pain “all day, everyday.” (Tr. 120.)
medical condition, age, education, or work experience. Id.
Step 2 involves a determination, based solely on the medical evidence, of
whether the claimant has a “severe” impairment, i.e., an impairment or combination
of impairments which significantly limits the claimant’s ability to perform basic work
activities. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) & (c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) & (c). If not, benefits are
Step 3 involves a determination, again based solely on the medical evidence,
of whether the severe impairment(s) meets or equals a listed impairment, which is
presumed to be disabling. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) & (d), 416.920(a)(4)(iii) & (d).
If so, and the duration requirement is met, benefits are awarded. Id.
Step 4 involves a determination of whether the claimant has a sufficient residual
functional capacity (RFC), despite the impairment(s), to perform the physical and
mental demands of past relevant work.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) & (f),
416.920(a)(4)(iv) & (f). If so, benefits are denied. Id.
Step 5 involves a determination of whether the claimant is able to make an
adjustment to other work, given claimant’s age, education and work experience. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) & (g), 416.920(a)(4)(v) & (g). If so, benefits are denied; if not,
benefits are awarded. Id.
In his November 10, 2009 decision (Tr. 7-16), the ALJ found that Plaintiff: (1)
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date; (2) had
“severe” impairments of degenerative disc disease (post-operative laminectomy),
diabetes mellitus (non-insulin dependent), hepatitis C, and chronic pain; (3) did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listed
impairment; (4) was not fully credible regarding the effects of his symptomatology;
(5) had the RFC for a limited range of light work activity, i.e., the ability to lift up to
twenty pounds at a time, to frequently lift or carry objects weighing up to ten pounds,
to do “a good deal of walking or standing or sitting most of the time,” and to do some
pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls, with the additional limitation to jobs that
allow for alternating between sitting and standing and that do not require constant
repetitive bending and stooping, or any climbing;2 (6) was unable to perform his past
relevant work; but (7) considering his age, education, past work experience and RFC,
and based on the testimony of the vocational expert, was able to perform other jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Thus, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff was not disabled.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s
decision, thereby making it the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3.)
Plaintiff then appealed the denial of benefits to this Court (docket entry #2).
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b) (light work requirements).
In Plaintiff’s Appeal Brief, he argues that the ALJ erred: (1) in improperly
discounting his subjective allegations of disabling pain (Pl.’s App. Br. at 12-18); (2)
in failing to determine whether he possessed the ability to maintain employment on
a continuing basis (id. at 18-19); (3) in failing to consider the impact of his pain
medication addiction on his ability to work (id. at 19-21); and (4) in failing to find that
his degenerative disc disease meets the criteria of a listed impairment (id. at 21-22).
For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s arguments are
Relevant Medical Evidence.3
In August 2000, Plaintiff was evaluated by Richard D. Peek, M.D., with the
Arkansas Spine Center. He told Dr. Peek that he had lower back pain (onset 1974)
and associated right leg pain (onset 1999).
Dr. Peek diagnosed L5-S1
spondylolisthesis4 and a herniated nucleus pulposa at L4-5, right, and recommended
Plaintiff has the burden of proving disability for a continuous twelve-month
period from his alleged date of onset, July 1, 2007, through the date of the ALJ’s
decision, November 10, 2009. See Medhaug v. Astrue, 578 F.3d 805, 813 (8th Cir. 2009);
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). Rather than focusing on the relevant time
period, much of Plaintiff’s Appeal Brief discusses his medical condition and treatment
from 2000 through 2003. (Pl.’s App. Br. at 3-8, 13, 14-15.)
This is a condition in which a bone (vertebra) in the lower part of the spine slips
out of the proper position onto the bone below it. Spondylolisthesis, U.S. National
Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002240 (last
surgery. (T. 219-22.) In November 2000, Plaintiff underwent a posterior spinal
fusion at L5-S1, with right iliac crest bone graft, and a laminectomy at L4-5 and S1.
A CT scan on July 17, 2002, – his latest in the record – continued to reflect
abnormalities at L4-5 and L5-S1, which included: a possible disc herniation at L4-5;
exuberant facet arthropathy at L4-5, and “mild-moderate” central canal stenosis; and
“extensive abnormality” at L5-S1 consistent with degenerative tearing of the anulus,
abnormal soft tissue in the ventral epidural space, Grade I anterolisthesis,5 and
postoperative change. (Tr. 186-87.) This CT scan was described as showing a
“central disc protrusion/herniation at 4-5.” (Tr. 171).
From April 2002 to July 2003, Plaintiff received treatment from a pain
management specialist, who treated him with pain medication, epidural steroid
injections and radio-frequency denervation. (Tr. 159-91.) Plaintiff last saw Dr. Peek
in August 2003. They discussed the need for reevaluation at the pain management
clinic, further surgery or, as an option, spinal cord stimulation. (Tr. 205.)
There are no records of any medical treatment from August 2003 until April 16,
reviewed July 28, 2010).
Anterolisthesis is “basically another term” for spondylolisthesis, and Grade 1 is
mild (less than 25% slippage). See http://www.spine-health.com/glossary/a/anterolisthesis
(last viewed September 28, 2011).
2007, three months before Plaintiff’s alleged onset date of disability. At that time,
Plaintiff presented at the emergency room with increased blood sugars and high blood
pressure, stating that he needed to find a local physician. (Tr. 297-305.) The next
day, April 17, he sought treatment from the Cowherd Family Medical Center for high
blood pressure and high blood sugar, also citing a 2002 diagnosis of hepatitis C and
his 2000 back surgery. He complained of “extreme muscle spasms” in his hands, side
and leg, anxiety and stress, problems with closing his fists, and excessive urination.
(Tr. 232-34.) At a follow-up on May 1, 2007, he had concerns about his blood sugars,
stress, continued muscle spasms, and chronic low back pain. (Tr. 230-31.) In July
2007, he returned to check his cholesterol, liver enzymes and blood sugars, and said
his hands were falling asleep. (Tr. 227-29.)
In December 2007, he came in for a check-up and to refill his medications. He
complained of RLS (restless leg syndrome), rhinitis, coughing and hand numbness,
and he reported that he was trying to get on Medicaid so he could get started on
interferon treatment for his hepatitis C. (Tr. 285-87.) His next medical treatments
were for a check-up and lab work on May 28, 2008 (Tr. 282-84); muscle spasms in
his arms, legs and right abdomen on June 3, 2008 (Tr. 291-96); and a urinary tract
infection on August 27, 2008 (Tr. 321-23).
On September 26, 2008, he sought treatment at his family clinic for low back
pain, saying he had “had a problem with his back for a while.” He requested a letter
for his disability claim regarding his diabetes, hepatitis C and bad back. (Tr. 318-20.)
On January 9, 2009, Plaintiff had a follow-up appointment for his blood sugars
and cholesterol. He also complained of congestion and discomfort when sitting or
coughing, and “mild” joint pain. He reported that he was on a nutritional program for
hepatitis C that his mother had paid for. (Tr. 315-17.) On March 2, 2009, he sought
treatment for a spot on his knee that was red and swollen, as well as coughing and a
sore inside his nose. (Tr. 312-14.)
Plaintiff’s Arguments for Reversal.
The ALJ Erred in His Credibility Determination.
Plaintiff’s first and third arguments challenge the ALJ’s assessment of his
subjective complaints of pain and functional limitations regarding his back
impairment and addiction to prescription pain medication.
An ALJ may discount a claimant’s subjective allegations if they are inconsistent
with the record as a whole. Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984).
An ALJ’s credibility determination normally will be granted deference if he explicitly
discredits a claimant’s testimony and gives good reasons for doing so. McCoy v.
Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c), 416.929(c)
(listing factors to consider);6 Polaski, 739 F.2d at 1322; SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186,
at *3, *5 (July 2, 1996).
Here, the ALJ stated that he had considered Plaintiff’s subjective allegations
and complaints in accordance with the relevant authority, citing Polaski and SSR 967p. (Tr. 9.) He found that the objective evidence, including clinical observations, did
not “corroborate the degree of functional limitations alleged” due to back pain and
further stated that he did not find “the claimant’s description of the effects of his
symptomatology to be fully credible in light of the overall medical record.” (Tr. 10.)
He explicitly found that Plaintiff’s subjective allegations were “not borne out by the
overall evidence” and were not “fully credible to the extent alleged.” (Tr. 14.)
In making his findings, the ALJ reviewed the medical evidence regarding
Plaintiff’s history of back pain, his diagnoses, his surgery in 2000, and his subsequent
treatment through 2003. He concluded his analysis with the following specific
The claimant’s back pain symptomatology seems fairly stable; he has
had sporadic treatment at best; it looks like there is further surgery
As stated in this regulation, the ALJ is required to consider, in addition to the
objective medical evidence and the claimant’s prior work record, statements and
observations made by the claimant, his or her medical providers and any others regarding
(1) the claimant’s daily activities, (2) the location, duration, frequency and intensity of
pain or other symptoms, (3) precipitating and aggravating factors, (4) type, dosage,
effectiveness and side effects of medications, (5) non-medication treatments or other
measures taken to alleviate pain and symptoms, and (6) functional limitations.
available they could do to help diminish his symptomatology; he has
taken pain medication sporadically and none currently; and he is working
part-time as a painter, four hours per day several days per week, which
even though not at the SGA level, indicates some level of functional
(Tr. 11.) The ALJ also found that the evidence, including Plaintiff’s ability to
continue working, indicated his pain and other symptomatology were “fairly well
controlled” and “adequately managed” with medications. (Tr. 10, 11.)
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ’s credibility determination fails to take into
account evidence that: (1) he had developed an addiction to prescription pain
medication; (2) his doctor had advised him not to pursue further back surgery; and (3)
he was capable of working only because he worked with a friend who provided
In his decision, the ALJ did note Plaintiff’s testimony that, following his back
surgery, he had to discontinue taking his pain medication “because of becoming
addicted and that he had to get off the medicine and then could not physically do what
he use[d] to do.” (Tr. 9, 28-29, 32.) He also noted that Plaintiff had reported to
medical providers a history of drug abuse. (Tr. 11, 298.) The ALJ properly referenced
Plaintiff’s medication list as reported in his disability application process. (Tr. 10,
154.) He also noted Plaintiff’s prescription drug history from May 2008 to April 2009
(Tr. 10, 151-53), none of which included any pain medications other than aspirin.
Finally, the ALJ noted Plaintiff’s medical records showing that, when he reported to
a hospital emergency room on April 16, 2007, he was not taking any medications
whatsoever. (Tr. 11, 298.).7 Thus, the ALJ’s decision shows that he did consider
Plaintiff’s prior addiction to pain medication in determining that his failure to take
such medication was still inconsistent with his claims of disabling pain.
The ALJ also noted that, after his back surgery in 2000, Plaintiff continued to
work full-time at the medium exertional level through 2007 and, during that time, he
was not taking prescription pain medication. He then continued working part-time in
2008 and 2009. (Tr. 9, 10, 11.) Likewise, at the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was
doing part-time painting, three or four days a week, and he testified that, on good
days, he could work four hours. (Tr. 9, 11, 12, 35.)
The law is clear that working part-time or full-time is inconsistent with a claim
of disabling pain and limitations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571, 416.971 (even if work
during a period of alleged disability was not substantial gainful activity, it may show
that claimant is able to do more work than he actually did); Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d
785, 792 (8th Cir. 2005) ("Working generally demonstrates an ability to perform a
substantial gainful activity."); Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926, 930 (8th Cir. 2004)
At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that he took aspirin and ibuprofen for pain relief.
(part-time work is inconsistent with claim of disabling pain). Thus, the ALJ was
entitled to rely on Plaintiff's work history and current work activity in evaluating his
credibility and in determining what he was capable of doing.
Similarly, Plaintiff’s ability to continue engaging in work activities supports
the ALJ’s conclusion that his pain and other symptoms were fairly controlled with
treatment and non-narcotic medication. See Wildman, 596 F.3d at 965 (impairment
that can be controlled by treatment or medication cannot be considered disabling);
Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 524-25 (8th Cir. 2009) (claimant’s ability to manage
back and knee pain through medication is inconsistent with alleged disabling level of
Finally, the ALJ noted Plaintiff’s testimony that he accounted for his physical
limitations by doing “nothing strenuous;” doing things like cutting or running edges
because those tasks did not hurt so badly; and lying on his shoulder and painting
sideways when doing baseboards because he could not bend or squat. (Tr. 9, 34-36.)
This shows that the ALJ did consider Plaintiff’s need for accommodations in
continuing to work as a painter. Additionally, the ALJ expressly found that Plaintiff
was no longer able to perform the medium-level exertional requirements of his past
work as a painter or maintenance repairman and, instead, restricted his RFC to the
lesser exertional requirements of light work activity. (Tr. 13, 14-15.)
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to consider the fact that he was gainfully
employed for fifteen consecutive years. It is true that a consistent work record can
enhance a claimant’s credibility. O’Donnell v. Barnhart, 318 F.3d 811, 816-17 (8th
Cir. 2003) (claimant’s “fourteen-year record of responsible and well-paying jobs”
prior to the alleged onset of disability supported her credibility). However, during
many of those fifteen years, Plaintiff had the same back condition and other
limitations that he now asserts are the basis for disability. As stated, the ALJ was
entitled to find that Plaintiff’s ability to work in the past with these impairments was
inconsistent with a claim that they are presently disabling.
The ALJ also properly recognized that Plaintiff’s doctors recommended
additional back surgery in November 2003, which Plaintiff did not pursue. (Tr. 10-11,
The record does not support Plaintiff’s contention that Dr. Peek
“repeatedly” advised against further back surgery. The only arguable reference cited
by Plaintiff is a notation, on June 6, 2002, where Dr. Peek stated that “one would not
consider further surgery” as far as his back pain was concerned. (Tr. 209.) However,
at Plaintiff’s last consultation with Dr. Peek, in August 2003, the doctor discussed the
risks and benefits of surgery and the option of spinal cord stimulation, but made no
recommendation one way or the other. Dr. Peek also noted that Dr. Thomas Hart (the
pain management consultant) had suggested that Plaintiff return for reevaluation. (Tr.
In a letter to Plaintiff dated November 25, 2003, Dr. Peek agreed with the
determination from the Texas Back Institute that Plaintiff needed further fusion
surgery. (Tr. 204.) Yet, Plaintiff did not make a return visit to Dr. Hart or Dr. Peek.
Under these circumstances, the ALJ did not err in noting that, after seeing Dr. Hart
and Dr. Peek in mid-2003, Plaintiff never pursued further back surgery or any other
In fact, the record shows that, after 2003, Plaintiff did not seek any treatment
whatsoever for his back pain or other conditions until April 2007. As noted above,
when he did seek medical treatment in 2007, his main concerns were his high blood
sugars and high blood pressure. Although he complained of low back pain and
“muscle spasms” in his hands, side and leg at three doctor visits in 2007 and 2008, the
doctor noted no musculoskeletal or neurological abnormalities at two of those visits.
(Tr. 232-33, 282-83, 318.)
He also was found to have no musculoskeletal
abnormalities or neurological deficits in other medical examinations in July and
December 2007 (Tr. 227-28, 286), and in January and March 2009 (Tr. 312-13, 316).
When he sought treatment in the emergency room in June 2008 for muscle spasms,
his back was non-tender and he had no neurological deficits. (Tr. 292-93.) After
receiving medication, he declined further treatment. (Tr. 294.)
Finally, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in citing his failure to receive
more treatment for his hepatitis C as evidence that it was not as limiting as Plaintiff
described during the administrative hearing. During that hearing, Plaintiff testified
that he did not have the money or insurance to pay for more aggressive treatment and
he was unable to gain admission into a program at UAMS. (Tr. 30, 121.)
The medical record indicates that Plaintiff was first diagnosed with hepatitis C
in 2002, when he was still working full-time and still had insurance. (Tr. 32, 318).
As noted by the ALJ, in December 2007, Plaintiff reported that he was unemployed
and trying to get on Medicaid so he could get started on interferon treatments for his
hepatitis. (Tr. 12, 285.) The ALJ also noted that, in June 2008, Plaintiff turned down
hospital admission or a transfer to UAMS for treatment of his hepatitis C and other
conditions, and he stated that he would rather go home and go to work. (Tr. 12, 29394.)
In 2009, Plaintiff was able to obtain financial resources to undergo a nutritional
program for control of his hepatitis C. (Tr. 317.) His primary practitioner’s treatment
notes for September 26, 2008, state that Plaintiff was seeking a letter for his disability
claim about his diabetes, hepatitis C and bad back; however, no letter appears in the
record and the doctor found him to be “well-appearing” and in “no distress.” (Tr.
After considering the entire record, the ALJ found no evidence – and Plaintiff
does not point to any now – that his hepatitis symptoms could not be controlled
adequately with regular medical treatment. The ALJ further found, in light of
Plaintiff’s continuing to work, that his hepatitis symptoms had no more than a
minimal effect on his ability to carry on gainful activity at the light exertional level.
(Tr. 12.) Thus, substantial evidence supports that conclusion.
The ALJ Erred in Failing to Make a Specific Finding on Whether
Plaintiff Had the Ability to Perform Work on A Continuing Basis.
Plaintiff asserts that the case should be remanded so that the ALJ can make a
specific finding on whether Plaintiff is able to maintain employment on a continuing
basis. By definition, RFC is a measure of a claimant's ability to perform work “on a
regular and continuing basis.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(b) & (c), 416.945(b) & (c).
The ALJ expressly stated that RFC is an individual's "ability to do physical and mental
work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations from his impairments." (Tr.
8) (emphasis added). It was unnecessary for the ALJ to make any further specific
findings in this regard. See Dunbar v. Barnhart, 330 F.3d 670, 672 (5th Cir. 2003).
The ALJ Erred in Finding Plaintiff’s Degenerative Disc Disease Was
Not a Listed Impairment.
If a severe impairment is of the degree set forth in a listing and meets the
twelve-month durational requirement, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled. Karlix v. Barnhart, 457 F.3d 742, 746 (8th Cir. 2006).
In Plaintiff’s Appeal Brief, he captioned this argument to allege that the ALJ
failed to find that Plaintiff’s severe degenerative disc disease meets the listing criteria
for herniated nucleus pulposa, i.e., Listing 1.04. (Pl.’s App. Br. at 2, 21.) See 20
C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 1.04A. The body of his argument, however, does
not mention Listing 1.04 or any supporting medical documentation. Instead, the
Appeal Brief cites to medical findings that Plaintiff has cervical spondylosis and
asserts that the impairment should have been evaluated pursuant to Listing 14.09, for
inflammatory arthritis, rather than Listing 1.00 for musculoskeletal system disorders.
(Pl.’s App. Br. at 21-22.) However, the transcript page Plaintiff references does not
contain the cited medical findings. (Tr. 131.) In fact, Plaintiff was diagnosed with
spondylolisthesis in the lumbar and sacral regions (L5-S1), not cervical spondylosis.8
(E.g., Tr. 205, 336.)
Regardless of which listing governs, the ALJ’s decision shows that he
considered all of the evidence regarding Plaintiff’s impairments – including his back
condition – and concluded that it “does not document the existence of any impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or equals the level of severity for any
This is a disorder in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of
the neck (cervical vertebrae). Cervical Spondylosis, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001472 (last reviewed June 4, 2011).
impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P, Regulations No. 4 and No. 16.” (Tr.
9 [emphasis added].) The fact that the ALJ did not elaborate on his conclusion, or
specifically mention any particular listing, does not require reversal or remand where
the record supports his overall conclusion. Karlix, 457 F.3d at 746.
Plaintiff cites to no medical evidence in the record to support his contention that
he satisfies Listing 1.04 or any other listing. The claimant has the burden of showing
that his impairment meets all of the listing's specified criteria. McCoy, 648 F.3d at
611. Merely being diagnosed with a condition named in a listing and meeting some
of the listing criteria does not qualify. Id. at 611-12 (citing Sullivan v. Zebley, 493
U.S. 521, 530 (1990)).
As previously discussed, the medical records through 2003 indicate a diagnosis
of a herniated nucleus pulposa at L4-5 (e.g., Tr. 171, 187, 336), which is identified as
a disorder of the spine encompassed by Listing 1.04A. However, the listing also
requires “[e]vidence of nerve root compression, characterized by neuro-anatomic
distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with
associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex
loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test
(sitting and supine).” In May 2003, Plaintiff was found to have “no specific nerve
root compressions,” and in July 2003, “no strong signs of nerve root compression.”
(Tr. 159, 160.) In August 2003, his reflexes and sensation were intact, and he had a
negative sitting straight-leg raising test. (Tr. 205).
More importantly, Plaintiff cites to no medical evidence after his alleged onset
date that he met all of these criteria for the requisite twelve-month period. The
Court’s review of the evidence, as recited above, confirms the ALJ’s conclusion that
Plaintiff had no impairments satisfying listing requirements.
After a careful review of the entire record and all arguments presented, the
Court finds that Plaintiff's arguments for reversal are without merit and that the record
as a whole contains substantial evidence upon which the ALJ could rely in reaching
his decision. The Court further concludes that the ALJ’s decision is not based on legal
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT the final decision of the Commissioner
is affirmed and Plaintiff’s Complaint is DISMISSED, WITH PREJUDICE.
DATED THIS 29th DAY OF September, 2011.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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