Pierce v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSING CASE. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 7/24/13. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
WILLIAM WAYNE PIERCE
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
Pierce sought supplemental security income and based disability on his
back problems. Pierce last worked in construction, building a city baseball
park. He quit working, he said, due to back pain. The Commissioner's ALJ
identified degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine as a severe
impairment, determined Pierce could do medium work, and denied Pierce's
Does substantial evidence-considering
supporting and contrary evidence-support the Commissioner's decision?
Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000).
Pierce first argues that his back problems meet listing 1.02. Pierce does
not meet the listing for three reasons: no medical evidence showed "gross
anatomical deformity;" no radiographic imaging showed "joint space
narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s);" and Pierce
can get around effectively. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521,530-31 (1990).
Pierce also challenges the ALJ's evaluation of his credibility. Because
the ALJ followed the required two-step process and considered the required
factors, see SSR 96-7p, the Court must determine whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ' s evaluation. The ALJ observed that no medical evidence
supported the alleged degree of pain, Pierce mowed the lawn, and he sought
little medical treatment. Had Pierce's pain been disabling, he would have
sought more medical treatment and done so regularly.
Not doing so
undermined his credibility. Edwards v. Barnhart,314 F.3d 964,967-68 (8th Cir.
2003); Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F.3d 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997). A reasonable
mind would accept the evidence as adequate to support the ALJ' s finding that
Pierce over-stated his pain. Britton v. Sullivan, 908 F.2d 328, 331 (8th Cir.
Pierce's strongest argument flows from the consulting doctor's opinion
about what kind of work Pierce could do. After reviewing Pierce's medical
records-office visits for a back injury and an MRI of the lumbar spine-the
consulting physician concluded that Pierce could do light work. A second
consulting physician agreed. The ALJ rejected the opinion as inconsistent
with the medical record and determined Pierce could do medium work.
Rejecting the opinion was not error. The consulting physician did not
examine Pierce, and other evidence supported the determination that Pierce
could do medium work. Woodard v. Schweiker, 668 F.2d 370, 374 (8th Cir.
1981). For example, Pierce twice went to the emergency room for back pain
after mowing the lawn. But Pierce sought no follow-up treatment. Before the
emergency-room visits, radiographic imaging showed mild degenerative disc
disease in the low back. "Mild" degenerative disc disease indicates Pierce
could do more than light work. The evidence adequately shows that Pierce
could do medium work. Britton, 908 F.2d at 331.
Even if Pierce was limited to light work, no reversible error occurred
because the vocational expert identified available light work. To the extent
Pierce maintains that he required a sit-stand option to work, no evidence
supported that limitation. Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413,418 (8th Cir. 1996).
Pierce also argues that the ALJ should have ordered a consultative
exam, but the treatment records provided sufficient medical evidence to
determine whether Pierce was disabled. McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 612
(8th Cir. 2011); Barrett v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 1019, 1023 (8th Cir. 1994). The
treatment records related to the impairment underlying the claim. Those
records substantiated "some levels of pain and limitations," Tr. 16, but not
constant, disabling pain precluding medium work. The Court affirms the
decision denying Pierce's application.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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