George v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) For all of the foregoing reasons, the ALJ's determination that George is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and George's claims of error are denied. Acco rdingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that that the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed, and John W. George's complaint is dismissed with prejudice. A separate Judgment is entered herewith. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 7/18/2017. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JOHN W. GEORGE,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,1
No. 4:16 CV 853 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff John W. George brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405 seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision denying his claim for
disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Because the Commissioner’s final decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole, I will affirm the decision.
On September 10, 2013, the Social Security Administration denied George’s
July 2013 application for DIB, in which he claimed he became disabled on January
1, 2012, because of rheumatoid arthritis and vision problems. At George’s request,
a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on April 20, 2015, at
On January 20, 2017, Nancy A. Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d), Berryhill is automatically substituted for former Acting
Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin as defendant in this action.
which George and a vocational expert testified. On May 28, 2015, the ALJ denied
George’s claim for benefits, concluding that the vocational expert’s opinion
supported a finding that George could perform work as it exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. On May 16, 2016, after considering additional
evidence, the Appeals Council denied George’s request for review of the ALJ’s
decision. The ALJ’s decision is thus the final decision of the Commissioner. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
In this action for judicial review, George first requests that the matter be
remanded so that the ALJ may consider in the first instance the additional evidence
that he submitted to and was considered by the Appeals Council. George claims
that the ALJ’s consideration of this evidence would result in a finding of disability.
George also claims that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence
on the record as a whole, arguing that the ALJ’s failure to specifically identify his
functional restrictions resulted in a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment
that was too vague to provide a basis to find that he could perform work. George
requests that the matter be reversed and remanded for further evaluation. For the
reasons that follow, the ALJ did not err in her determination.
Evidence Before the ALJ
At the hearing on April 20, 2015, George testified in response to questions
posed by the ALJ and counsel.
At the time of the hearing, George was fifty-three years old. He is a high
school graduate and lives alone. (Tr. 29, 36.)
George worked for eighteen years as a groundskeeper and general
maintenance man at Strathalbyn Farms. (Tr. 30-31.) He then worked at BDM
Household for five years as a groundskeeper and maintenance man. This job
ended in November 2010 when his employer laid off all of its employees. George
filed for unemployment benefits at that time and has not worked since. (Tr. 29, 3132.) George received unemployment benefits during the first quarter of 2012 but
none thereafter. (Tr. 126.)
George was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2009 and currently takes
eight tablets of Methotrexate each week for the condition. He sees his primary
care physician and a rheumatologist for treatment. (Tr. 33-35.) George testified
that he generally experiences pain in his wrists with the condition and occasionally
drops things. He was instructed by his rheumatologist to wear wrist splints, but he
wraps his wrists in ace bandages instead because he likes to do woodworking and
sanding. George experiences pain with this activity, however, and must take a
break after twenty or thirty minutes. George also testified that he experiences
double vision when his arthritis flares up. (Tr. 35-36, 40.)
George testified that during minor flare ups of his condition, he experiences
pain and exhaustion – primarily exhaustion. His hands also get warm and “turn
in.” The minor flare ups are unpredictable in frequency but can last up to two
days. George usually sits or lies down during these episodes. With major flare
ups, George testified that he can barely move. He can do nothing around the house
and is unable to even turn a doorknob. He takes prednisone during these episodes.
George testified that he experiences a major flare up every other month, and that
they are severe enough that he has to go to the hospital. (Tr. 37-40.)
As to his daily activities, George testified that he wakes in the morning and
does household chores such as laundry or the dishes. He then goes to his mother’s
house to let her dog outside. George does his own grocery shopping. His hobbies
include model trains and woodworking. He builds boxes and tables. He uses a
table saw for his woodworking, but testified that it is very difficult for him now.
(Tr. 36-37.) He wears shoes with Velcro to accommodate his hand pain. He no
longer uses his cast iron skillet because it is too heavy to pick up. (Tr. 40-41.)
Vocational Expert Testimony
Dale Thomas, a vocational expert, testified at the hearing in response to
questions posed by the ALJ.
The ALJ asked Mr. Thomas to assume an individual of George’s age,
education, and work experience who was limited to work at the “light exertional
level” and who could “occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, and
crouch. He should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or crawl. He would be
limited to frequent handling and fingering with his bilateral upper extremities, and
he can have only occasional exposure to extremes of cold.” (Tr. 42.) Mr. Thomas
testified that such a person could not perform any of George’s past work but could
perform unskilled light work as a bench assembler, housecleaner, and courier. The
ALJ then asked Mr. Thomas to assume the same individual but that he was limited
to occasional handling and fingering. Mr. Thomas testified that such a person
could perform light unskilled work as a counter clerk. The ALJ then asked Mr.
Thomas to assume the individual would need two breaks each day in addition to
normal breaks for unskilled work. Mr. Thomas testified that no jobs in the
unskilled labor force would be available. (Tr. 43-44.)
George underwent testing in June 2009 in response to complaints of joint
pain and swelling. All test results were essentially normal except for a high
rheumatoid factor. George was referred to Dr. Sona Kamat, a rheumatologist, for
appropriate medication. (Tr. 218-22.)
George visited Dr. Kamat on January 10, 2011, and complained of
occasional achy, dull pain in both hands. It was noted that George took
Methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis and that he obtained benefit from it. Dr.
Kamat considered George’s condition to be mild in severity. George reported that
he had experienced joint pain a few months prior, but the pain resolved. Physical
examination showed George’s right wrist to be swollen. Dr. Kamat considered
George to be doing well and suggested that he try reducing his medication dosage.
George returned to Dr. Kamat on April 18, 2011, who noted there to be no
change in George’s condition and that it continued to be mild. George reported
that his symptoms were aggravated by cold or rainy weather, and he complained of
pain in his back and joints. Physical examination showed no change from his
previous exam. Dr. Kamat noted George to have decreased his medication dosage
slightly and to be doing well. George was instructed to continue on his medication
and to return in four months. (Tr. 187-89.)
On August 15, 2011, George reported to Dr. Kamat that he rarely
experienced wrist pain and that he received benefit from his medication. Physical
examination was normal in all respects. No skeletal tenderness or joint deformity
was noted. Dr. Kamat noted George to be doing well overall and suggested that he
continue on his medication at a decreased dose. She considered his impairment to
be moderate in severity. George was instructed to return in four months. (Tr. 19395.)
The record shows that George did not seek further medical treatment until
May 7, 2013, at which time he visited the People’s Health Center with complaints
of pain in his right wrist and in both hips. He rated the pain at a level five on a
scale of one to ten. George reported the pain to worsen with activity. George’s
history of rheumatoid arthritis was noted, and it was noted that he was taking no
medication. George was advised to quit smoking. (Tr. 212-13.)
George returned to the People’s Health Center on May 29 and visited Dr.
Rosa Galves-Myles. He reported that he currently had no pain. Physical
examination was essentially unremarkable, except tenderness was noted in the
right wrist and about the interphalangeal joints in the hands. No edema or
deformities were noted. George was prescribed Methotrexate and was instructed
to take eight tablets once a week. George was referred to Rheumatology. (Tr.
George visited Dr. Kamat on August 7, 2013, and complained of persistent
pain in his hands and knees, aggravated by cold or rainy weather. George also
complained of morning stiffness but reported no fatigue. Dr. Kamat instructed
George to continue with Methotrexate and suggested that he start an additional
medication. George declined the additional medication because of cost and the
possibility of side effects. (Tr. 216-17.)
George returned to Dr. Kamat on December 11, 2013, and reported having
persistent pain in his hands, ankles, hips, and left wrist. George also reported
being fatigued and having morning stiffness. George reported having flare ups of
his rheumatoid arthritis on days that he is active. Dr. Kamat recommended that
George see his primary care physician, whom he had not seen in three years.
George was given information about diet and exercise and was instructed to return
in four months. (Tr. 228-29.)
George visited his primary care physician, Dr. John Ellena, on January 15,
2014. Dr. Ellena noted George’s only complaint to be his arthritis. George’s
medications were noted to include regular doses of Methotrexate, and prednisone
as needed. Physical examination was normal in all respects, including
musculoskeletal examination and examination of the extremities. (Tr. 233-36.)
George visited Dr. John D. Lowry on September 8, 2014, to establish care
under new insurance. Dr. Lowry noted George’s rheumatoid arthritis to be well
controlled with medication and that George had no current complaints. George
denied being fatigued. He reported having pain and stiffness in his hands after
periods of inactivity. Physical examination was unremarkable except for
generalized swelling of the fingers of both hands. George had good range of
motion. George was continued on Methotrexate and was instructed to return in
three months. He was referred to Dr. Aisha Shaikh for his rheumatoid arthritis.
(Tr. 239-42, 263.)
George returned to Dr. Lowry on February 10, 2015, with complaints of
worsening fatigue. He had no other complaints. Dr. Lowry noted George’s
rheumatoid arthritis to be fairly well controlled with medication. George was
scheduled to see his new rheumatologist soon. Physical examination was normal
in all respects. Dr. Lowry diagnosed George with rheumatoid arthritis–stable. He
noted the etiology of George’s fatigue to be unknown but opined that it was
possibly related to rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disease, which was yet to be
ruled out. George was instructed to return in six months. (Tr. 269-70.)
George visited Dr. Shaikh on February 17, 2015, for evaluation of his
rheumatoid arthritis. George reported having had arthritis pain for five years but
that he was doing fairly well on his medication. He reported that he currently has a
flare up of symptoms once every couple of months, but that he takes prednisone for
such episodes. Review of systems showed George to report having fatigue, dry
eyes, joint pain and swelling, and numbness and tingling in the hands. George’s
medications were noted to include prednisone and Methotrexate. Physical
examination showed crepitus about both knees but otherwise was normal. George
had no swollen joints, no tight muscle groups, and no tender points. Dr. Shaikh
determined that George’s rheumatoid arthritis was doing reasonably well with
medication. She opined that the paresthesia of both hands was suggestive of carpal
tunnel syndrome. Dr. Shaikh ordered laboratory and diagnostic tests and instructed
George to continue with his medications. She added Meloxicam to George’s
medication regimen and suggested that he wear splints on his hands for his carpal
tunnel symptoms. George was instructed to return in eight weeks. (Tr. 301-05.)
X-rays of the wrists and hands taken February 17 showed no abnormalities.
George visited Clarkson Eyecare on February 24, 2015, with complaints of
double vision. He reported that he was previously diagnosed with Sjogrens
disease. George reported always having a “weak” eye but that he did not
experience diplopia until five years ago. Examination showed refractive error,
cataract, and nuclear sclerosis. A new prescription for glasses was ordered, and
George was instructed to return in one year. (Tr. 317.)
Evidence Submitted to and Considered by the Appeals Council
After George’s August 7, 2013, visit with Dr. Kamat, her office informed
him on August 8 that his recent laboratory tests yielded stable results and that there
was no need for further testing. (Tr. 328.) Laboratory tests dated December 11,
2013, were likewise stable. (Tr. 327.)
On June 30, 2015, Dr. Shaikh completed a Physical Medical Source
Statement (MSS) at the request of George’s counsel wherein she reported that
George was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and vitamin D deficiency. Dr.
Shaikh opined that in an eight-hour workday, George could sit for four hours, stand
for three hours, and walk for three hours. Dr. Shaikh opined that George could
frequently lift and carry up to ten pounds and occasionally lift and carry twenty
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pounds. She further opined that George had no limitations with his hands and no
problems with balance. She opined that George could frequently reach above his
head and occasionally stoop. Dr. Shaikh reported objective signs of George’s pain
to be limited range of motion. Subjective signs were his complaints of pain. She
opined that George’s pain precluded him from focusing on simple tasks on a
sustained work schedule, and that he would be absent from work about twice a
month and late to work about twice a month. Dr. Shaikh also opined that George
may need to take additional breaks throughout the workday if he experienced a
flare up. Dr. Shaikh noted in this MSS that her opinions were only estimates
because she did not assess George’s limitations during his clinic visit. (Tr. 32932.)
The ALJ’s Decision
The ALJ found George to meet the requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2015, and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2012, the alleged onset date of disability. The ALJ found
George’s rheumatoid arthritis to be a severe impairment, but that it did not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
The ALJ found George to have the RFC to perform light work as defined in the
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Regulations,2 with additional limitations to occasional stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and climbing ramps and stairs. George was further limited to never
crawling or climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He was also limited to
occasional handling and fingering bilaterally. (Tr. 13-14.) The ALJ found
George’s RFC to prevent him from performing his past relevant work.
Considering George’s RFC and his age, education, and work experience, the ALJ
found vocational expert testimony to support a conclusion that George could
perform other work as it exists in significant numbers in the national economy, and
specifically as a counter clerk. The ALJ therefore found George not to be disabled
at any time from January 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 16-17.)
To be eligible for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act,
George must prove that he is disabled. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211,
1217 (8th Cir. 2001); Baker v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 552,
555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social Security Act defines disability as 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 12
“Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying
of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. . . . [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).
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months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). An individual will be declared disabled “only
if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is
not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education,
and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which
exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner engages in a
five-step evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987). The Commissioner begins by deciding whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. If the claimant is working,
disability benefits are denied. Next, the Commissioner decides whether the
claimant has a “severe” impairment or combination of impairments, meaning that
which significantly limits his ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant's
impairment(s) is not severe, then he is not disabled. The Commissioner then
determines whether claimant's impairment(s) meets or equals one of the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. If claimant's
impairment(s) is equivalent to one of the listed impairments, he is conclusively
disabled. At the fourth step, the Commissioner establishes whether the claimant
can perform his past relevant work. If so, the claimant is not disabled. Finally, the
Commissioner evaluates various factors to determine whether the claimant is
capable of performing any other work in the economy. If not, the claimant is
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declared disabled and becomes entitled to disability benefits.
I must affirm the Commissioner’s decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002).
Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but enough that a reasonable
person would find it adequate to support the conclusion. Johnson v. Apfel, 240
F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). Determining whether there is substantial
evidence requires scrutinizing analysis. Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th
I must consider evidence that supports the Commissioner’s decision as well
as any evidence that fairly detracts from the decision. McNamara v. Astrue, 590
F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2010). If, after reviewing the entire record, it is possible to
draw two inconsistent positions and the Commissioner has adopted one of those
positions, I must affirm the Commissioner’s decision. Anderson v. Astrue, 696
F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012). I may not reverse the Commissioner’s decision
merely because substantial evidence could also support a contrary outcome.
McNamara, 590 F.3d at 610.
Evidence Submitted to and Considered by the Appeals Council
As summarized above, George submitted additional evidence to the Appeals
Council, which the Appeals Council considered in determining not to review the
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ALJ’s decision. George claims that the ALJ should be given the opportunity to
review this evidence in the first instance because it would likely result in a finding
of disability by the ALJ. George’s argument is misplaced.
Evidence submitted to and considered by the Appeals Council is part of the
administrative record before me for judicial review. On this administrative record,
which now includes the new evidence, I must determine whether the ALJ’s
decision is supported by substantial evidence. Davidson v. Astrue, 501 F.3d 987,
990 (8th Cir. 2007); Bergmann v. Apfel, 207 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000). The
mere inclusion of additional evidence in the record is not a reason in itself to
remand the matter to an ALJ for consideration. Contra Lamp v. Astrue, 531 F.3d
629, 633 (8th Cir. 2008) (matter remanded for ALJ to consider new evidence
where record was not clear whether Appeals Council considered it). If this new,
material, and relevant evidence was NOT considered by the Appeals Council, then
remand would be warranted. Whitney v. Astrue, 668 F.3d 1004, 1006 (8th Cir.
2012). But that is not the case here. Because the Appeals Council did consider
this additional evidence, my role is to consider the entirety of the administrative
record to determine whether the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Upon such consideration, I find that it is.
The ALJ summarized the record that was before her, including the medical
facts, non-medical evidence, and the consistency of such evidence when viewed in
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light of the record as a whole. In determining the evidence not to support a finding
of disability, the ALJ noted that George’s employment ended because of a lay-off
and not because of an inability to perform work on account of medical
impairments. She also noted that during the relevant period, George went for
periods of months and even years without seeing a doctor. See Ostronski v.
Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 419 (8th Cir. 1996) (infrequent medical treatment during
relevant period suggest that symptoms not so great as to preclude the performance
of work). And when George did visit a doctor, he often had no complaints,
physical examinations yielded essentially normal results, and the doctors
consistently noted that he was doing well on medication. In fact, George’s primary
physician noted in 2014 and 2015 that George’s condition was well controlled with
medication. Where an impairment is well controlled with medication, a finding of
disability is precluded. Perkins v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 892, 901 (8th Cir. 2011); see
also Turpin v. Colvin, 750 F.3d 989, 993 (8th Cir. 2014) (impairments controllable
by treatment or medication are not considered disabling). The ALJ also noted that
while George reported having flare ups, they were rare and, contrary to George’s
testimony, did not require hospital care. George told his doctors that he took
prednisone during these episodes, which the doctors found to be effective.
George argues that the ALJ would have likely reached a different conclusion
as to disability had she had the opportunity to review Dr. Shaikh’s newly submitted
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medical opinion because the opinion was from a treating specialist and imposed
limitations that would render George disabled. I disagree.
First, the record does not support George’s contention that Dr. Shaikh was
his “treating” physician as that term is defined in the Regulations. The Regulations
define a “treating source” as a claimant’s “own 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.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1502 (emphasis added). The record contains no
evidence that, at the time Dr. Shaikh rendered her opinion in June 2015, she had an
ongoing treatment relationship with George – given that she had seen George on
only one occasion in February 2015 – such that she had sufficient knowledge from
which she could form an opinion regarding George’s ability to function in the
workplace. Randolph v. Barnhart, 386 F.3d 835, 840 (8th Cir. 2004). I therefore
disagree with George’s assertion that the ALJ would assign significant weight to
Dr. Shaikh’s June 2015 MSS on the basis that she is his “treating” physician.3
I also note that Dr. Shaikh explicitly stated in her MSS that she did not
assess George’s limitations during his clinic visit and that therefore the opined
limitations in the MSS were estimates only. Where a medical opinion cites no
Although George argues that it would be reasonable to assume that he continued to see Dr.
Shaihk, and that evidence of these possible subsequent visits would be admitted upon remand,
my review is limited to the administrative record as it now stands.
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medical evidence to support its conclusions nor elaborates on its conclusions, it is
entitled to little if any weight. See Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir.
2010). Here, Dr. Shaikh admits that the opined limitations have no objective
medical basis. Therefore, I cannot say that Dr. Shaikh’s admittedly unsupported
medical opinion, when considered with the other evidence of record, changes the
ALJ’s decision as to non-disability.
My review of the administrative record in its entirety shows the ALJ’s
finding of non-disability to be supported by substantial evidence. The medical
evidence shows George’s impairment to be well controlled on medication and to
impose no significant restrictions. X-rays showed no abnormalities, and physical
examinations consistently showed near-normal results – only slight swelling was
noted. While laboratory testing showed positive rheumatoid factor and other
results to support the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, a mere diagnosis is
insufficient in and of itself to establish disability. Cf. Lott v. Colvin, 772 F.3d 546,
549 (8th Cir. 2014). Further, results from these labs were consistently stable,
which demonstrates that George’s condition did not deteriorate. Finally, no
physician ever placed any functional restrictions on George’s activities, and a
review of the activities themselves show that George was not limited to such a
degree that he must be considered disabled. See Hensley v. Barnhart, 352 F.3d
353, 356 (8th Cir. 2003) (finding of no disability supported by fact that no
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functional restrictions were placed on claimant’s activities).
Accordingly, upon consideration of all the evidence of record, including Dr.
Shaikh’s MSS, I find that the ALJ’s conclusion that plaintiff is not disabled is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
Vague RFC Limitation to “Light Work”
George claims that the ALJ’s general limitation to “light work” is too vague
to provide the basis for a finding that he had the RFC to perform work. George
claims that the ALJ erred by failing to undergo the required function-by-function
analysis in making the RFC determination. In the circumstances of this case, the
ALJ did not err.
A claimant’s RFC is the most he can do despite his physical or mental
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a). The RFC is a “function-by-function
assessment based upon all of the relevant evidence of an individual’s ability to do
work-related activities.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *3 (July 2, 1996). An
ALJ’s RFC analysis should “identify the individual's functional limitations or
restrictions and assess his or her work-related abilities on a function-by-function
basis, including the functions [listed] in . . . 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545[.]” Id. at *1.
Functions listed in § 404.1545 include sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying,
pushing, and pulling – all of which George claims the ALJ failed to assess here –
as well as manipulative and postural functions. The Ruling cautions that a failure
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to make the function-by-function assessment “could result in the adjudicator
overlooking some of an individual's limitations or restrictions.” SSR 96-8p, 1996
WL 374184, at *4. However, “when there is no allegation of a . . . restriction of a
specific functional capacity, and no information in the case record that there is
such a limitation or restriction, the adjudicator must consider the individual to have
no limitation or restriction with respect to that functional capacity.” Id. at *3.
Where an ALJ does not “specify the details” of a claimant’s RFC and
describes it only in general terms, a reviewing court is unable to determine whether
substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s conclusion that the claimant can perform
work. Pfitzner v. Apfel, 169 F.3d 566, 568-69 (8th Cir. 1999). In this case,
however, the ALJ did not simply describe George’s RFC in “general terms.” To
the contrary, she made explicit findings and found George to have specific
limitations in his postural and manipulative functional capacities. Although it
would have been preferable for the ALJ to also make specific findings as to sitting,
standing, walking, etc., see Depover v. Astrue, 349 F.3d 563, 567 (8th Cir. 2003), I
cannot say that she overlooked those functions. Instead, the record reflects that the
ALJ implicitly found that George was not limited in these areas. See id. All of the
functions that the ALJ specifically addressed in the RFC were those in which she
found a limitation based upon the evidence of record. With the recitation of these
specific limitations, it is reasonable to conclude that any specific function that was
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omitted was a function that was not limited. Id. This is especially true here where
no evidence of record shows that George was limited in his ability to sit, stand,
walk, push or pull. See SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *3.
Further, the ALJ’s finding that George was limited to light work imposes a
functional restriction in lifting and carrying, and specifically, lifting no more than
twenty pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of up to ten pounds. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). George makes no allegation and the record does not show
that he was more restricted in this capacity than as found by the ALJ.
The ALJ made explicit findings as to George’s postural and manipulative
limitations as well as to his functional capacity to lift and carry. The evidence does
not show that George was limited in any other functional capacity, and George
does not allege any specific restriction. In these circumstances, the ALJ did not
commit reversible error by failing to make explicit findings as to George’s
functional capacity in areas where the ALJ implicitly found no limitation.
Depover, 349 F.3d at 567-68. For these same reasons, the ALJ was not required to
refer to George’s non-limitations in his hypothetical posed to the vocational expert.
Id. at 568.
For all of the foregoing reasons, the ALJ's determination that George is not
disabled is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and
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George’s claims of error are denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that that the decision of the Commissioner is
affirmed, and John W. George’s complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
A separate Judgment is entered herewith.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 18th day of July, 2017.
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