Oba v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court AFFIRMS the Commissioners decision. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment accordingly. Signed by Judge Jon E DeGuilio on 12/7/17. (nal)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
STACY L. OBA,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No. 3:16-CV-689 JD
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Stacy L. Oba applied for social security disability benefits, claiming that she was
unable to work due to a variety of impairments. She alleged that she suffered extreme pain from
degenerative disc and joint diseases that prevented her from engaging in almost any activities, as
well as gastrointestinal problems that would prevent her from attending a job. An administrative
law judge found that Ms. Oba was limited in her ability to work, but not as severely as alleged,
and that there were jobs that a person with Ms. Oba’s limitations could perform. Accordingly,
the Commissioner denied Ms. Oba’s claim for benefits. Ms. Oba filed this action seeking review
of that decision. For the reasons explained below, the Court affirms the Commissioner’s denial
of the claim.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Ms. Oba filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income, claiming that, by February 2012, she had become unable to work due to her health
conditions. She primarily alleged that she was disabled due to pain that she suffered from
degenerative disc and joint disease in her back, hip, and knees. Though her x-rays and MRIs
revealed only mild findings, Ms. Oba complained of pain so severe that she was unable to walk
or engage in any meaningful activity. She sought treatment for that condition through a pain
management doctor, who prescribed narcotic pain medication. Ms. Oba also complained of
extreme gastrointestinal conditions, and testified that for the previous two and half years, she had
been throwing up ten to twenty times a day and having diarrhea twenty to thirty times a day. The
record showed that Ms. Oba had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and narcotic
bowel syndrome, but also contained conflicting evidence as to whether or to what extent Ms.
Oba suffered symptoms from those conditions. Ms. Oba had also undergone gastric bypass
surgery some time before her alleged onset date, and while she had lost several hundred pounds,
she still qualified as obese.1
An administrative law judge held a hearing on Ms. Oba’s claims, and Ms. Oba and a
vocational expert each testified. The ALJ then issued a written decision that concluded Ms. Oba
did not qualify as disabled. In particular, the ALJ found at step two that Ms. Oba had a number
of severe impairments, including degenerative disc disease, knee and hip degenerative joint
disease, and obesity. He then found that Ms. Oba did not meet or equal any of the listings at step
three—a finding Ms. Oba does not challenge on appeal—so he proceeded to evaluate her
residual functional capacity. Among other limitations, he found that she could stand or walk up
to two hours in a day; that she could lift or carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently; that she could occasionally balance, stoop, and kneel, but could not climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and that she could not perform commercial driving or be exposed to
hazards. The vocational expert testified that a person with those limitations could perform a
number of sedentary jobs, so the ALJ found at step five that Ms. Oba was not disabled. The
Ms. Oba was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but does not raise any arguments in
this Court relating to those conditions.
Appeals Council denied Ms. Oba’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Oba thus filed this action seeking review of that decision.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Because the Appeals Council denied review, the Court evaluates the ALJ’s decision as
the final word of the Commissioner of Social Security. Schomas v. Colvin, 732 F.3d 702, 707
(7th Cir. 2013). This Court will affirm the Commissioner’s findings of fact and denial of
disability benefits if they are supported by substantial evidence. Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668,
673 (7th Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971). This evidence must be “more than a scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.”
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). Thus, even if “reasonable minds could
differ” about the disability status of the claimant, the Court must affirm the Commissioner’s
decision as long as it is adequately supported. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).
It is the duty of the ALJ to weigh the evidence, resolve material conflicts, make
independent findings of fact, and dispose of the case accordingly. Perales, 402 U.S. at 399–400.
In this substantial-evidence determination, the Court considers the entire administrative record
but does not reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute the
Court’s own judgment for that of the Commissioner. Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d
535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the Court conducts a “critical review of the evidence”
before affirming the Commissioner’s decision. Id. An ALJ must evaluate both the evidence
favoring the claimant as well as the evidence favoring the claim’s rejection and may not ignore
an entire line of evidence that is contrary to his or her findings. Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 887 (7th Cir. 2001). Consequently, an ALJ’s decision cannot stand if it lacks evidentiary
support or an adequate discussion of the issues. Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539. While the ALJ is not
required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, the ALJ must provide a
“logical bridge” between the evidence and the conclusions. Terry v. Astrue, 580 F.3d 471, 475
(7th Cir. 2009).
Disability benefits are available only to those individuals who can establish disability
under the terms of the Social Security Act.2 Estok v. Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998).
Specifically, the claimant must be unable “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 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Social Security regulations create a five-step sequential
evaluation process to be used in determining whether the claimant has established a disability. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)–(v). The steps are to be used in the following order:
Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity;
Whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment;
Whether the claimant’s impairment meets or equals one listed in the regulations;
Whether the claimant can still perform relevant past work; and
Whether the claimant can perform other work in the community.
Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001).
At step three, if the ALJ determines that the claimant’s impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals an impairment listed in the regulations, disability is acknowledged
by the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). However, if a listing is not met or
Ms. Oba applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and for Supplemental Security Income, but
as relevant here, the standards for those programs are identical, so the Court does not further
distinguish between those two claims.
equaled, then in between steps three and four, the ALJ must then assess the claimant’s residual
functional capacity, which is defined as the most a person can do despite any physical and
mental limitations that may affect what can be done in a work setting. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545. The
ALJ then uses the residual functional capacity to determine whether the claimant can perform his
or her past work under step four and whether the claimant can perform other work in society at
step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). The claimant has the initial burden of proof in steps one
through four, while the burden shifts to the Commissioner in step five to show that there are a
significant number of jobs in the national economy that the claimant is capable of performing.
Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1000 (7th Cir. 2004).
The Court construes Ms. Oba as raising three arguments in support of reversing the
Commissioner’s decision. First, that the ALJ erred in considering the credibility of Ms. Oba’s
complaints about the severity of her conditions and limitations. Second, that the ALJ erred in
discounting the opinion of Ms. Oba’s treating physician, Dr. Ribaudo. And third, that the ALJ
failed to properly consider any limitations caused by Ms. Oba’s gastrointestinal conditions. As to
each of those arguments, the record contained conflicting evidence that the ALJ had to weigh
and resolve. In reviewing the ALJ’s decision, the Court’s role is not to re-weigh the evidence,
but only to determine whether the ALJ’s decision on each of those points was supported by
substantial evidence. Skinner, 478 F.3d at 841 (“When reviewing for substantial evidence, we do
not displace the ALJ’s judgment by reconsidering facts or evidence or making credibility
determinations.”). Because the Court finds that to be the case, it affirms the decision.
The Court begins with the ALJ’s analysis of the credibility of Ms. Oba’s complaints, as
that underlies the ALJ’s decision on each of Ms. Oba’s arguments. During the hearing before the
ALJ, Ms. Oba testified to a number of extreme limitations. For example, she testified that she
suffered back, knee, and hip pain so severe that she was never able to stand or walk on her
own—that she was confined to a wheelchair, but could walk up to twelve feet with the assistance
of a walker. (R. 55, 58–59). She rated her level of pain at seven out of ten on a good day, and
“ten plus” on a bad day, and further testified that she had at least five bad days a week. (R. 57).
She also testified that she suffered extreme gastrointestinal conditions. She testified that for
every day for the last two and a half years, she had been throwing up and having constant
diarrhea. (R. 72). She said that she would throw up between ten to twenty times a day, and that
she had diarrhea twenty to thirty times a day. (R. 72–73).
The ALJ considered this testimony and concluded that, while Ms. Oba did have pain that
caused a variety of limitations, her limitations were not as severe as she testified. “Because
hearing officers are in the best position to see and hear the witnesses and assess their
forthrightness, [courts] afford their credibility determinations special deference.” Powers v.
Apfel, 207 F.3d 431, 435 (7th Cir. 2000). On review, courts “‘merely examine whether the ALJ’s
determination was reasoned and supported,’” and will overturn a credibility determination only
when it is “patently wrong.”3 Shideler v. Astrue, 688 F.3d 306, 310–11 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008)). Here, the ALJ offered a lengthy explanation
of the reasons for his credibility finding (R. 14, 17–19), and the Court cannot find that those
reasons are patently wrong.
First, the ALJ noted that the objective medical tests revealed only mild findings. (R. 18).
He discussed the various diagnostic tests that had been done over the years on Ms. Oba’s back,
hips, and knees, none of which revealed any condition that could explain the disabling back, hip,
The Commissioner has since issued new guidance on how an ALJ should evaluate a claimant’s
statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of their symptoms, but it took
effect after Ms. Oba’s claim, and does not apply here. Social Security Ruling, SSR 16-3p.
and knee pain of which Ms. Oba complained. As the ALJ noted, even Ms. Oba’s treating
physician referred to the x-ray and MRI findings as “very insignificant.” (R. 18, 324). Other tests
referred to “mild” or “early” degenerative changes of the joints. (R. 18). Though, as Ms. Oba
notes, an ALJ cannot rely “solely” on the lack of objective medical evidence in disbelieving her
testimony, an ALJ may consider as part of its credibility analysis whether the testimony is
supported by objective medical evidence. Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 519 (7th Cir. 2009);
Powers, 207 F.3d at 435 (“While a hearing officer may not reject subjective complaints of pain
solely because they are not fully supported by medical testimony, the officer may consider that
as probative of the claimant’s testimony. . . . The discrepancy between the degree of pain attested
to by the witness and that suggested by the medical evidence is probative that the witness may be
exaggerating her condition.”). The ALJ did so here, considering the lack of objective medical
evidence as one of multiple factors in the credibility analysis, and finding that this factor
weighed against Ms. Oba’s allegations.
Ms. Oba also argues that, while the mild degenerative changes might not be significant
for a person who was not overweight, those conditions would cause significant symptoms due to
her obesity. However, Ms. Oba’s treating physician was aware of her weight, as were the other
reviewing and examining physicians, and none of them believed that the objective findings
corroborated Ms. Oba’s complaints of pain, so the ALJ did not misconstrue the evidence in that
manner. Also, the ALJ did acknowledge Ms. Oba’s obesity and its potential to exacerbate her
limitations, and he took that into account by limiting her to standing and walking only two hours
in an eight-hour day (meaning essentially sedentary work). (R. 19).
The ALJ next noted that Ms. Oba’s treatment had been “essentially routine in nature,” as
her only significant treatment consisted of monthly office visits to renew her pain medications,
and Ms. Oba had not sought or received treatment from an orthopedist or rheumatologist. (R.
18). In response, Ms. Oba argues that the ALJ misstated the evidence on this point. She first
argues that the ALJ erred in stating that Ms. Oba had not participated in physical therapy.
However, what the ALJ actually said was that Ms. Oba had not participated in physical therapy
“since the alleged onset date” (R. 18), and that statement was true. Ms. Oba also notes that the
ALJ said she had never received injections, when in fact she had received an injection in her
back. (R. 18, 566). However, that injection likewise took place well before Ms. Oba’s onset date,
and that single discrepancy does not make the ALJ’s assessment patently wrong. Simila, 573
F.3d at 517 (affirming a credibility finding that, while “not flawless,” was not “patently wrong”).
Next, the ALJ stated that Ms. Oba’s “description of the severity of her pain and
limitations has been so extreme as to appear implausible.” (R. 18). That is a fair characterization,
given Ms. Oba’s testimony that her pain was “ten plus” out of ten at least five days a week, and
that she had been vomiting ten to twenty times a day and having diarrhea twenty to thirty times a
day for the last two and a half years. Ms. Oba’s brief does not dispute that characterization of this
testimony or otherwise respond to this factor.
Finally, the ALJ noted multiple discrepancies in the record as to Ms. Oba’s complaints,
as well as multiple instances in which the doctors that examined her questioned the veracity of
her professed symptoms. For example, Ms. Oba testified that she was unable to stand up or walk
on her own,4 but she was observed walking when she arrived at the emergency room in February
2015. (R. 19, 787). One of her doctors noted that same month that Ms. Oba claimed to be
wheelchair bound but that he had seen her walk. (R. 19, 753). On another instance, Ms. Oba
Ms. Oba’s brief characterizes her testimony as that she could walk up to twelve feet without a
walker, but her testimony was actually that she could never stand or walk on her own, and that
on a good day she could walk about twelve feet with the assistance of a walker. (R. 55, 58).
walked into the emergency room, and the doctor noted that Ms. Oba asked to be prescribed more
pain medication and then suddenly began to have severe back pain. (R. 19, 632). Another doctor
noted that Ms. Oba exhibited “likely attention seeking behavior.” That doctor further noted that
Ms. Oba complained of abdominal tenderness during the examination, but that “with distraction
[she] continues to talk through abdominal exam with no obvious tenderness.” (R. 18–19, 637).
That observation mirrored a comment by another doctor several months earlier, who stated that it
was “very difficult to accept” Ms. Oba’s complaints of abdominal tenderness. (R. 14, 645). In
particular, the doctor noted that Ms. Oba complained that even superficial touching of her skin
caused abdominal pain, but that she showed no signs of tenderness when he examined her
abdomen with a stethoscope for bowel sounds. (Id.). The ALJ also noted that Ms. Oba testified
that she had rheumatoid arthritis and that she had no cartilage in her hips or knees. (R. 55, 65).
However, the record contained no evidence of either of those conditions, as even Ms. Oba’s
attorney conceded at the hearing. The ALJ further noted that Ms. Oba testified that she had not
driven since 2011, yet a treatment note reflected that she had been driving in July 2013. (R. 18,
Ms. Oba argues in response that the ALJ engaged in cherry-picking by relying on these
inconsistencies. This was not an example of cherry-picking, though; the ALJ noted multiple
examples of objective contradictions between the record and Ms. Oba’s testimony, which is an
appropriate consideration for a credibility analysis. In addition, though Ms. Oba attempts to
reconcile or minimize some of the apparent contradictions, even her doctors highlighted some of
these discrepancies in their treatment notes and expressed doubt as to her symptoms, and it was
appropriate for the ALJ to take that into account. Ms. Oba further argues that the ALJ should not
have relied in his credibility analysis on the opinions of the state reviewing physicians, who
opined that her allegations as to the severity of her symptoms were only “partially credible.” (R.
109, 119). However, the ALJ’s decision never referenced those opinions in connection with its
credibility analysis, so they appear to have had no effect on the ALJ’s determination in this
regard. Finally, Ms. Oba argues that the ALJ should not have considered the opinion of Dr.
Inabnit, a state agency examining physician, because he was only able to perform a partial
examination. However, Dr. Inabnit still met with Ms. Oba, performed a partial examination, and
reviewed her medical records, so he had at least some basis on which to offer his opinion that
Ms. Oba’s complaints of pain were out of proportion to his findings. In addition, his opinion was
one of many pieces of evidence that the ALJ cited in support of his finding, and it is clear that
Dr. Inabnit’s opinion was not critical to that finding.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the ALJ’s credibility determination was adequately
reasoned and supported, and was not “patently wrong,” so the Court cannot reverse the
Commissioner’s decision on that basis.
Ms. Oba also argues that the ALJ erred in declining to give controlling weight to the
opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Ribaudo, who treated Ms. Oba for osteoarthritis and
lumbar spondylosis. In December 2012, Dr. Ribaudo completed a form outlining Ms. Oba’s
physical capacity. He opined that Ms. Oba could stand or walk up to two hours a day and sit up
to six hours, and that she could lift up to ten pounds. He further opined that Ms. Oba could not
perform simple grasping, pushing and pulling, or fine manipulation; that she could never bend,
squat, kneel, climb, or reach; that she required the use of a cane; and that she would be absent
from work more than eight days a month. (R. 304). The ALJ considered this opinion and decided
to give it “little weight.”
“[A] treating physician’s opinion regarding the nature and severity of a medical condition
is entitled to controlling weight if supported by the medical findings and consistent with
substantial evidence in the record.” Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 842 (7th Cir. 2007).5
“However, while the treating physician’s opinion is important, it is not the final word on a
claimant’s disability.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). Thus, an ALJ may discount a treating
physician’s opinion when it is internally consistent or is inconsistent with other substantial
evidence, so long as the ALJ offers “good reasons.” Larson v. Astrue, 615 F.3d 744, 749 (7th
Cir. 2010); Schmidt, 496 F.3d at 842. Courts review such a decision deferentially: “the ALJ’s
decision must stand as long as she has ‘minimally articulated’ her reasons for rejecting the
treating physician’s opinion.” Henke v. Astrue, 498 F. App’x 636, 639 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 415 (7th Cir. 2008)).
Here, in discounting Dr. Ribaudo’s opinion, the ALJ first noted that it “contrasts sharply
with the objective radiological results.” (R. 20). As discussed above, that is an accurate
characterization of the evidence, as despite Dr. Ribaudo’s opinion that Ms. Oba’s lumbar
spondylosis caused debilitating limitations, none of the tests reflected findings serious enough to
cause limitations that severe. In fact, as the ALJ further noted, “Dr. Ribaudo himself concluded
that the claimant’s x-rays and MRI scans do not provide significant findings.” (R. 20). That
statement is consistent with Dr. Ribaudo’s own treatment notes, which characterize the x-ray and
MRI of Ms. Oba’s spine as “very insignificant.” (R. 349, see also 344 (“I’m not convinced the
MRI findings are the cause of her symptoms.”), 557 (noting that Ms. Oba’s knees and hips show
“early” degenerative changes). Since an ALJ may discount the opinion of a treating physician if
Again, the applicable administrative regulations have been amended, but the amendments took
effect after Ms. Oba’s claim, so they do not apply here. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520c.
it is not supported by medical findings, Skarbek v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 504 (7th Cir. 2004),
it was appropriate for the ALJ to take this factor into account.
The ALJ next noted that Dr. Ribaudo’s opinion “relies heavily on the excessive
subjective report of symptoms provided by the claimant.” (R. 20). As discussed above, the ALJ
viewed Ms. Oba’s subjective reports with skepticism, and cited ample evidence in support of that
finding. That discussion included multiple instances in which Ms. Oba’s subjective reports to her
doctors were called into question. Because the ALJ found that Ms. Oba’s symptoms were not as
severe as her subjective complaints, it was appropriate for the ALJ to in turn discount Dr.
Ribaudo’s opinion, which relied on those subjective reports. Alvarado v. Colvin, 836 F.3d 744,
748 (7th Cir. 2016) (affirming the ALJ’s decision to discount the treating physician’s opinion, in
part because the physician’s “analysis was based on subjective reports from [the claimant] and
his mother, rather than objective measurements”). In arguing to the contrary, Ms. Oba argues that
the ALJ misstated her treatment history in discrediting her testimony, as noted above. However,
as also noted above, the ALJ’s credibility finding was adequately supported, notwithstanding the
minor inaccuracy as to the injection she received on one occasion, so that does not present
grounds for reversal.
Ms. Oba also argues that the ALJ failed to consider the reduced effectiveness of pain
medication in controlling her pain, as her ability to absorb pain medication may have been
reduced as a side-effect of her previous gastric bypass surgery. Ms. Oba’s argument on this point
misstates Dr. Ribaudo’s opinion, though—she states that Dr. Ribaudo opined in February 2015
“that Ms. Oba’s inability to get adequate control of her pain is related to her inability to absorb
the pain medication through her intestines, the normal distribution system, because of her gastric
bypass surgery.” [DE 14 p. 4–5 (citing R. 752)]. In the record to which Ms. Oba cites, all Dr.
Ribaudo says on that topic is the following: “[Ms. Oba] has been under my care for chronic pain
management associated with osteoarthritis and spondylosis. The patient is narcotic tolerant. In
the past, she has undergone bariatric surgery as well.” (R. 752). That statement does not support
Ms. Oba’s characterization. There are other points in the record where Dr. Ribaudo does note
that Ms. Oba may not fully absorb the medication, but even that does not contradict the ALJ’s
opinion. The ALJ’s finding was not that Ms. Oba had significant pain but that the pain was wellcontrolled by medication; he found that the medical evidence did not support that level of pain in
the first place and that her subjective reports were not fully credible. Thus, Ms. Oba’s argument
about the effectiveness of her pain medication is not responsive to the ALJ’s analysis.
Finally, Ms. Oba argues that an ALJ may not discount a treating physician’s opinion
simply because a non-examining physician offers a contradictory opinion. However, an ALJ can
consider contrary opinions by consulting physicians in deciding to discount a treating physician’s
opinion. Lazier v. Colvin, 601 F. App’x 442, 445–46 (7th Cir. 2015) (“A treating physician’s
assessment . . . may be discounted if internally inconsistent or inconsistent with a consultant’s
opinion.”); Skarbek, 390 F.3d at 503 (“An ALJ may discount a treating physician’s medical
opinion if it is inconsistent with the opinion of a consulting physician . . . .”). And to the extent
the ALJ relied on the opinions of the consulting physicians (both of whom found that Dr.
Ribaudo’s opinion was unsupported by the medical evidence), that was one of multiple factors
that the ALJ considered, so the ALJ did not err in that respect. Therefore, the Court finds that the
ALJ did not err in his consideration of Dr. Ribaudo’s opinion.
Last, Ms. Oba argues that the ALJ erred in finding that her gastrointestinal conditions did
not qualify as “severe” at step two of the sequential analysis. The ALJ noted that Ms. Oba had
been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and had been treated for gastroesophageal reflux
disease, but he found that those impairments caused no more than a minimal effect on Ms. Oba’s
ability to perform work.6 Thus, he found that these conditions were not severe. Ms. Oba argues
that this finding was not supported by substantial evidence. An ALJ must evaluate both the
evidence favoring the claimant as well as the evidence favoring the claim’s rejection.
Golembiewski v. Barnhart, 322 F.3d 912, 917 (7th Cir. 2003); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881,
888 (7th Cir. 2001). However, an ALJ need only minimally articulate his justification for
accepting or rejecting specific evidence of disability. Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 545 (7th
Cir. 2008); Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 371 (7th Cir. 2004).
Here, the ALJ acknowledged Ms. Oba’s gastrointestinal conditions, but found that they
did not result in limitations on her ability to work. The only evidence of limitations from these
conditions came from Ms. Oba’s own statements, but the ALJ noted multiple inconsistencies in
those statements and thus declined to credit them. The ALJ began by noting Ms. Oba’s testimony
that she threw up ten to twenty times a day and had diarrhea twenty to thirty times a day. (R. 14).
If true, those limitations would surely interfere with a person’s ability to work. The ALJ further
noted, though, that the record contained many contradictory statements in that regard. In
November 2014, Ms. Oba had reported that she had five to six loose stools a day and three each
night; while still substantial, that is markedly less than her testimony at the hearing. Moreover,
Ms. Oba sought treatment for gastrointestinal conditions in December 2013 and February 2014,
and each time she reported having only a few days of symptoms. (R. 14, 659 (“This patient states
Ms. Oba argues that, in addition to these conditions, she also suffers from “Dumping
syndrome,” a possible side-effect of gastric bypass surgery when nutrients pass quickly from the
stomach to the small intestine. However, it is not clear whether Ms. Oba was actually diagnosed
with that condition or whether she is relying on her and her counsel’s own supposition.
Regardless, the ALJ addressed the alleged symptoms at issue, and Ms. Oba does not identify any
reason why the precise cause of those symptoms would undermine the ALJ’s analysis.
she has had some loose BMs on and off for about the last 2-3 days . . . .”), 666 (“This patient has
had vomiting and diarrhea for 3 days now.”)). Again, that is inconsistent with her testimony that
she experienced these symptoms “every day for the last two and a half years.” (R. 72). And at an
office visit in February 2015, Ms. Oba reported no nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea at all. (R. 14,
759). Further, the ALJ also noted that the objective tests were “unremarkable,” and that doctors
had questioned the veracity of her reported symptoms, as discussed above. (R. 14).
Ms. Oba does not identify any particular flaw in the ALJ’s analysis, but argues generally
that his finding was not supported by substantial evidence. As just discussed, though, the record
contained conflicting evidence on this point, and resolving those conflicts is the province of the
ALJ. The ALJ here addressed the evidence and more than “minimally articulated” his reasons for
rejecting the evidence of those potential limitations. And because the ALJ could reasonably find
that the complaints of limitations associated with these conditions were not credible, the ALJ’s
decision was supported by substantial evidence. Thus, the ALJ did not err in this regard.
For those reasons, the Court finds that the Commissioner’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence and that Ms. Oba has not presented any grounds for reversal. Accordingly,
the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner’s decision. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment
ENTERED: December 7, 2017
/s/ JON E. DEGUILIO
United States District Court
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