BELL v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
OPINION fld. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 6/22/15. (sr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 14-5131 (JLL)
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
This matter comes before the Court upon the appeal of Christine Bell (“Plaintiff”) from
the final determination by Administrative Law Judge (“AU”) Richard De Steno uphold
final decision of the Commissioner denying in part Plaintiff’s application for Supplementa
Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). The Court has jurisdi
over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), and resolves this matter on the
parties’ briefs pursuant to Local Civil Rule 9.1(f). After reviewing the submissions of both
parties, for the following reasons, the final decisions of the Commissioner are affirmed.
On April 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability beginning
February 20, 2010. (R. at 133). The application was denied by the Commissioner on August 21,
2010, and upon reconsideration on August 18, 2011. (R. at 86, 94). A request for a hearing was
filed and subsequently held on July 17, 2012.
(R. at 97, 107).
On August 10, 2012,
Administrative Law Judge Richard De Steno issued an opinion finding Plaintiff disabled as of
tiffs initial application.
February 24, 2012, but not earlier as claimed in Plain
(R. at 21).
was denied on June 17, 2014.
Plaintiff filed a request to the Appeals Council for review which
(R. at 1). Plaintiff then commenced the instant action.
1. Plaintiffs Testimony
years old. She last worked
At the time of her initial application, Plaintiff was fifty-three
2002. (R. at 22, 42). Plaintiff claims
as a bus attendant on school buses until she was laid off in
ing her right knee as well as her
that she can no longer work because she has disabilities involv
back. (R. at 43).
such that she
She cannot bend her leg at night, and at times her back hurts
her legs cramp, as well as stand
cannot walk at all. (R. at 43). She can sit for a half-hour before
know how much weight she can
for a half-hour to forty-five minutes. (R. at 44). She does not
and required that she help a small
carry. (R. at 44). Her job as a bus attendant was full time,
not do any lifting or carrying, and
child in a wheelchair. (R. at 41, 46). Other than that she did
occasionally had to stand to keep the children in line. (R. at 42).
house or back yard. (R. at
During the day, Plaintiff spends most of her time sitting in the
and cleans on occasion. (R. at 4445). She has some difficulty getting dressed, and she cooks
47). She feels depressed, and has
45). She can lift a gallon of milk with two hands. (R. at
s license but does not go
difficulty sleeping due to nightmares. (R. at 43-44). She has a driver’
anywhere by herself. (R. at 45).
2. Medical Evidence
ff at the request of the
On June 16, 2010, Dr. Justin Fernando examined Plainti
swelling, high blood pressure,
Administration. (R. at 196). Plaintiff complained of arthritis,
terol levels. (R. at 196).
depression, sleep disorder, poor eating habits and high choles
complained of pain in her joints, and claimed her greatest pain was in the weight bearing areas of
the lower back, knees and ankles.
(R. at 196).
This pain gives her difficulty with weight
bearing, walking, or standing for any length of time. (R. at 196). She claimed she could not
stand continuously for more than a few minutes. (R. at 196). Dr. Fernando observed that her
gait was normal, and she did not need help changing for the exam. (R. at 197). He found that
she had a slightly limited range of motion in her knees, but had normal range of motion in all
otherjoints. (R. at 197-198). Her X-rays also appeared normal. (R. at 198).
On June 20, 2010, Dr. Paul Fulford examined Plaintiff, whose chief complaints at the
time were loss of balance, dizziness and high blood pressure. (R. at 203-204). She complained
of auditory hallucinations for three months prior to the examination. (R. at 205). She also
complained of visual hallucinations that she likened to shadows, and tactile hallucinations that
awaken her from sleep. (R. at 205). Dr. Fulford stated that Plaintiff’s short term auditory recall
memory was mildly impaired, her concentration appeared good, and calculation ability as well as
her judgment appeared fair. (R. at 205). He also noted that “no bizarre or inappropriate qualities
were noted,” her speech was clear and goal oriented, and that her mental control was good. (R.
at 204). Dr. Fulford diagnosed Plaintiff with Dysthymic disorder, and assigned her a Global
Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 65. (R. at 205).
On September 14, 2010, Plaintiff admitted herself to the emergency department at
University Hospital with complaints of a backache. (R. at 213). She was given a prescription for
Naproxen and an injection of Toradol. (R. at 214). The only diagnosis recorded was backache.
(R. at 215).
Dr. Thomas Francis of Rhomur Medical Services’ records dated between October and
December of 2010 reflect uncontrolled hypertension as well as marijuana abuse attributed to her
depression. (R. at 217-226). Dr. Francis also had Plaintiff undergo an EKG on October 1, 2010.
R. at 239. The findings of the EKG were termed “abnormal” as Plaintiff had left ventricular
hypertrophy as well as sinus bradyardia. (R. at 240). Dr. Francis ordered an X-ray of Plaintiff’s
lumbar spine on October 28, 2010, which was “unremarkable”, with no abnormalities. (R. at
Later, Dr. Stacy Mevs ordered an X-ray dated February 14, 2011 which showed mild
degenerative change in the right knee. (R. at 243). Of note however is that according to the
report these X-rays were not compared to the previous images ordered by Dr. Fernando or any
other images. (R. at 243).
On July 13, 2011, Dr. Rahel Eyassu examined Plaintiff at the request of the
administration. (R. at 227). Plaintiff complained of arthritis in her ankle and both knees, and
stated that she had difficulty walking. (R. at 227). Dr. Eyassu found that the plaintiff had a
limping gait, favoring her right knee. (R. at 227). Plaintiff was diagnosed with arthritis, worse
in the right knee, and poorly controlled hypertension. (R. at 228).
On July 28, 2011, Dr. Kim Arrington examined the Plaintiff. (R. at 236). Plaintiff
reported dysphoric moods, crying spells, fatigue, self isolation, difficulty concentrating, weight
loss, as well as other anxiety-related symptoms such as panic attacks and excessive worry. (R. at
236). Plaintiff reported auditory hallucinations of her mother calling her name. (R. at 236).
Other cognitive problems that appeared after her mother’s death were reported by Plaintiff as
well, such as becoming lost, confused and deficits in memory, which she put forth as reasons
why she avoids travel. (R. at 236-237). Plaintiff claims that she needs help dressing, bathing,
cooking and cleaning because of her knee problems.
(R. at 238).
estimation that Plaintiffs intellectual functioning was low average.
It was Dr. Arrington’s
(R. at 237).
various tests Dr. Arrington concluded that Plaintiff’s insight and judgment were fair, and her
recent/remote memory was mildly impaired. (R. at 237). It was in Dr. Arrington’s opinion that
Plaintiff would have difficulty learning new tasks and performing complex tasks without
(R. at 238).
Dr. Arrington diagnosed Plaintiff with Adjustment disorder and with
anxiety/depressed mood and assigned a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 52.
(R. at 238).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A reviewing court will uphold the Commissioner’s factual decisions if they are supported
by “substantial evidence.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Sykes v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259, 262
(3d Cir. 2000). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla
but may be less than a
preponderance.” Woody v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs, 859 F.2d 1156, 1159 (3d Cir.
1988). It “does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant
evidence which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate
to support a conclusion.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (citation omitted).
Not all evidence is considered “substantial.” For instance,
[a] single piece of evidence will not satisfy the substantiality test if
the [Commissioner] ignores, or fails to resolve, a conflict created
by countervailing evidence. Nor is evidence substantial if it is
overwhelmed by other evidence—particularly certain types of
evidence (e.g. that offered by treating physicians)—or if it really
constitutes not evidence but mere conclusion.
Wallace v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 722 F.2d 1150, 1153 (3d Cir. 1983) (quoting Kent
v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1983)). The AU must make specific findings of fact to
support his ultimate conclusions. Stewart v. Secretary of HEW, 714 F.2d 287, 290 (3d Cir.
The “substantial evidence standard is a deferential standard of review.”
Bamhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004). As such, it does not matter if this Court “acting de
novo might have reached a different conclusion” than the Commissioner. Monsour Med. Ctr. V.
Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1190-91 (3d Cir. 1986) (quoting Hunter Douglas, Inc. NLRB, 804 F.2d
808, 812 (3d Cir. 1986)). “The district court.
is [not] empowered to weigh the evidence or
substitute its conclusions for those of the fact-finder.” Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178,
1182 (3d Cir. 1992) (citing Early v. Heckler, 743 F.2d 1002, 1007 (3d Cir. 1984)). A Court must
nevertheless “review the evidence in its totality.” Schonewolf v. Callahan, 972 F. Supp. 277,
284 (D.N.J. 1997) (citing Daring v. Heckler, 727 F.2d 64, 70 (3d Cir. 1984). In doing so, the
Court “must ‘take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight.” Id.
(quoting Willibanks v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 847 F.2d 301, 303 (6th Cir. 1988)).
To properly review the findings of the AU, the court needs access to the AU’s
Unless the [Commissioner] has analyzed all evidence and has
sufficiently explained the weight he has given to obviously
probative exhibits, to say that his decision is supported by
substantial evidence approaches an abdication of the court’s duty
to scrutinize the record as a whole to determine whether the
conclusions reached are rational.
Gober v. Matthews, 574 F.2d 772, 776 (3d Cir. 1978) (quoting Arnold v. Sec’y of Health, Educ.
& Welfare, 567 F.2d 258, 259 (4th Cir. 1977)). A court must further assess whether the AU,
when confronted with conflicting evidence, “adequately explain[ed] in the record his reasons for
rejecting or discrediting competent evidence.” Ogden v. Bowen, 677 F. Supp. 273, 278 (M.D.
Pa. 1987) (citing Brewster v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 581 (3d Cir. 1986)). If the AU fails to properly
indicate why evidence was rejected, the court is not permitted to determine whether the evidence
was discredited or simply ignored. See Burnett v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec, 220 F.3d 112, 121 (3d
Cir. 2000) (citing Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 705 (3d Cir. 1981)).
The Five-Step Process for Evaluating Whether a Claimant Has a Disability
A claimant’s eligibility for benefits is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1382. Pursuant to the Act,
a claimant is eligible for benefits if he meets the income and resource limitations of 42 U.S.C.
1382a and 1382b, and demonstrates that he is disabled based on an “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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3)(A). A
person is disabled only if his physical or mental impairment(s) 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 work which exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1 382c(a)(3)(B).
To determine whether the claimant is disabled, the Commissioner performs a five-step
sequential evaluation. 20 C.F.R. §416.920. The claimant bears the burden of establishing the
first two requirements, namely that he (1) has not engaged in “substantial gainful activity” and
(2) is afflicted with a “severe impairment” or “combination of impairments.”
If a claimant fails to demonstrate either of these two requirements, DIBs are
denied and the inquiry ends. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). If the claimant
successfully proves the first two requirements, the inquiry proceeds to step three which requires
the claimant to demonstrate that his impairment meets or medically equals one of the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 Appendix 1 (the “Listings”).
If the claimant
demonstrates that his impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, he is presumed
to be disabled and therefore, automatically entitled to DIBs. Id. If he cannot make the required
demonstration, further examination is required.
The fourth step of the analysis asks whether the claimant’s residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) permits him to resume his previous employment. 20 C.F.R. §416.920(e). If a claimant
is able to return to his previous employment, he is not disabled within the meaning of the Act
and is not entitled to DIBs. Id. If the claimant is unable to return to his previous employment,
the analysis proceeds to step five.
At this step, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
demonstrate that the claimant can perform a job that exists in the national economy based on the
claimant’s RFC, age, education, and past work experience.
§ 416.920(g). If the
Commissioner cannot satisfy this burden, the claimant is entitled to DIBs. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
The Requirement of Objective Evidence
Under the Act, disability must be established by objective medical evidence.
individual shall not be considered to be under a disability unless he furnishes such medical and
other evidence of the existence thereof as the Secretary may require.” 42 U.S.C.
Notably, “[a]n individual’s statement as to pain or other symptoms shall not alone be conclusive
evidence of disability as defined in this section.” Id. Specifically, a finding that one is disabled
[M]edical signs and findings, established by medically acceptable
clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques, which show the
existence of a medical impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which could
reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms
alleged and which, when considered with all evidence required to
be furnished under this paragraph.
would lead to a conclusion
that the individual is under a disability.
Id.; see 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). Credibility is a significant factor. When examining the
record: “The adjudicator must evaluate the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of the
[claimant’s] symptoms to determine the extent to which the symptoms limit the individual’s
ability to do basic work-related activities.” SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186 (July 2, 1996). To do
this, the adjudicator must determine the credibility of the individual’s statements based on
consideration of the entire case record. Id. The requirement for a finding of credibility is found in
§ 416.929(c)(4). A claimant’s symptoms, then, may be discredited “unless medical
signs or laboratory findings show that a medically determinable impairment(s) is present.” 20
§ 416.929(b). See also Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 362 (3d Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff argues that there is not substantial evidence supporting the AU’s finding that
Plaintiffs mental impairment was not severe. (P1. Br. at 10-11). Plaintiff claims that the AU, in
making this finding of non-severity, relied on isolated statements from Dr. Fulford and also
ignored the medical evidence from the other administration appointed medical professionals.
(P1. Br. at 11).
Further, Plaintiff argues that there is not substantial evidence supporting the
AU’s finding that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to February 24, 2012. (P1. Br. at 19). Plaintiff
stresses that the AU’s RFC assessment is merely conclusory and is against the medical evidence
on record. (P1. Br. at 19-20). For the reasons that follow, this Court does not agree.
A. Whether Substantial Evidence Supports the AU’s Findings Regarding the Severity of
Plaintiffs Mental Impairment
Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner and subsequently the AU improperly evaluated
the medical evidence with respect to the severity of any mental impairments or combination
thereof. (P1. Br. at 11). Plaintiff also argues that the AU’s credibility decisions were improper
and thus should be overturned.
(P1. Br. at 19).
The determination of whether a medically
determinable impairment is severe or a combination of impairments is severe occurs at step two
of the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining disability. See 20 C.F.R.
416.920. The severity of an impairment must be such that it “significantly limits” the ability to
perform work activities. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(c). This is first accomplished by rating the degree
of functional limitation imposed by the mental impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920a(c). There are
four categories under which the degree of limitations are assessed; activities of daily living;
social functioning; concentration, persistence or pace; and episodes of decompensation.
§ 416.920a(c)(3). A rating of “none, mild, moderate, marked and extreme” are accorded
to each of the first three categories based on all of the relevant evidence.
416.920a(c)(4). Then, a count is taken on the number of episodes of decompensation and given
an appropriate score. Id. Here, the AU found that Plaintiff had no more than mild limitations in
the first three categories, and no episodes of decompensation. (R. at 20-21). The Court finds
that the following substantial evidence supports the AU’s assessment.
1. Substantial Evidence from Dr. Fulford’s report supports the AU’s decision
Plaintiff contends that the AU relied on isolated statements from Dr. Fulford in finding
Plaintiffs mental impairments not severe, and ignored Dr. Fulford’s findings in favor of
Plaintiff. (P1. Br. at 11). Plaintiff points to Dr. Fulford’s findings that Plaintiffs short term
auditory recall memory was mildly impaired, Plaintiff’s complaints to Dr. Fulford regarding
hallucinations as well as Plaintiffs report to Dr. Fulford that her daily activities were limited to
getting her son ready for school. (P1. Br. at 11-12). However, the Court finds that the ALl
adequately assessed Dr. Fulford’s report, in its entirety.
The AU in particular addressed Dr. Fulford’s finding that Plaintiff did not have
cognitive limitations except for the aforementioned mild limitation on short term auditory recall
memory. (R. at 20). Dr. Fulford found, and the AU addressed, that Plaintiff’s mental control
was good, speech was clear and goal directed, there were no signs of psychomotor agitation or
retardation, and no bizarre or inappropriate qualities noted. (R. at 20, 204-205). Dr. Fulford also
found that Plaintiff’s concentration and abstract thinking appeared “good” and Plaintiffs
calculation and judgment appeared “fair.”
(R. at 20, 205).
He also estimated that her
intelligence was “within normal limits.” (R. at 205). None of Dr. Fulford’ s evaluations contend
that Plaintiff’s impairments were anything other than mild. (R. at 204-205).
Plaintiff claims the AU ignored evidence from Dr. Fulford’s report, and points to the
subjective complaints of hallucinations mentioned therein. (P1. Br. at 11-12). However, “an
individual’s statement as to pain or other symptoms shall not alone be conclusive evidence of
disability.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(5)(A). While subjective testimony can be used to establish
disability, there are not any objective medical facts or observations by Dr. Fulford to support the
existence of hallucinations other than Plaintiffs reports. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.929(b). With the
complaints of hallucinations in mind, Dr. Fulford nonetheless assigned Plaintiff a Global
Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 65. (R. at 205). A GAF score is not conclusive,
however a GAF score can reflect the medical professional’s notes regarding the patient’s
symptoms and also quantifies their overall judgment regarding the extent of impairment. Rios
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 444 F. App’x 532, 535 (3d Cir. 2011). Accordingly, this Court finds
that substantial evidence supports the AU’s decision in weighing the subjective complaints of
the Plaintiff with the other evidence and observations from Dr. Fulford’s report.
2. Substantial Evidence from Dr. Arrington’s Report Supports the AU’
’s report. (P1. Br. at
Plaintiff argues that the AU ignored evidence from Dr. Arrington
gton’s opinion that Plaintiff would
12). In support of that contention, Plaintiff points to Dr. Arrin
’s opinion that the results of her
have difficulty learning new tasks as well as Dr. Arrington
at 12-13). The Court finds that
evaluation appear consistent with psychiatric problems. (P1. Br.
e a decision that is supported by
the AU, in weighing conflicting medical reports, mad
borated in the medical record
The AU found that Dr. Arrington’s opinion was not corro
Plaintiff. (R. at 20). Dr. Arrington
and was based entirely on the subjective complaints of the
ing new tasks and performing
opined in her report that Plaintiff “will have difficulty learn
tain a regular schedule,” and that
complex tasks independently,” “she would need support to main
t with psychiatric problems.” (R. at
“the results of the present evaluation appear to be consisten
ord as well as Dr. Arrington herself
238). However, the evidence from the reports of Dr. Fulf
rt had very similar findings to that of
contradict these conclusions. Indeed, Dr. Arrington’s repo
ch was fluent, thought process was goal
Dr. Fulford’s, Dr. Arrington found that Plaintiff’s spee
mild impairment to Plaintiff’s recent
oriented, cognitive functioning was fair, and also noted a
the medical issues mentioned in Dr.
and remote memory. (R. at 204-205, 237). The bulk of
tiff, and not objective medical evidence.
Arrington’s report were in fact, complaints of the Plain
depression symptoms after her mother’s
(R. at 236-238). For example, the Plaintiff reported
used easily, as well as panic attacks. (R. at
death, anxiety-related symptoms, getting lost or conf
any medical evidence, as the AU states.
236-237). None of these claims are corroborated by
Further, Dr. Arrington assigned Plaintiff a GAF score of 52. (R. at 238). A GAF score
between 51 and 60 is representative of “Moderate Symptoms” while a score between 61 and 70,
like the score Plaintiff received from Dr. Fulford, is representative of “Some Mild Symptoms”.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM IV”) 34 (American Psychiatric
Assoc, 2000). A review of Dr. Arrington’s, as well as all of the evidence regarding mental
impairments as a whole, reveals some evidence of mild mental impairments and no evidence of
moderate mental impairments. (R. at 20). In fact neither Dr. Fulford nor Dr. Arrington mention
any measure of cognitive functioning as being “moderately” impaired, and for most measures of
functioning utilize descriptors such as “fair”, “good” and “mild.”
(R. 204-205, 236-237).
Accordingly, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the AU’s determination that
Plaintiff’s mental impairments were not severe. (R. at 21).
3. The AU appropriately weighed evidence accordingly by assessing credibility
Plaintiff points to the reported hallucinations and contends that the AU ignored these
symptoms. (P1. Br. at 12). The complaints of hallucinations are reported by both Dr. Fulford
and Dr. Arrington, however it was Dr. Arrington who noted that throughout the examination
there were no manifested signs of hallucinations. (R. at 237). Accordingly, the AU specifically
determined that Dr. Arrington’s report was influenced by subjective complaints which were not
corroborated in the record and chose to accord it less weight. (R. at 20). The Court finds that
this determination is supported by substantial evidence.
The Plaintiff also brings to the Court’s attention the observations of the social security
claims representative. (P1. Br. at 16-17). The claims representative conducted an interview and
stated that “at first I thought [Plaintiff] may have been suffering from a mental condition,” and
noted that she had difficulty with hearing, reading, breathing, understanding, concentrating and
coherency, (R. at 152). Although the AU did not address the claims representative’s statement,
it would not be error to accord it no credibility. (P1. Br. at 17). The medical reports of both Dr.
Fulford and Dr. Arrington directly contradict the statement of the claims representative. Both
doctors noted that Plaintiffs speech was clear and coherent, that she was able to maintain
concentration, that she understood the purpose of their examinations. (R. at 204-205, 237-23 8).
Given that both doctors’ reports are part of the medical evidence record they are properly
accorded more weight than a statement from a representative at a field office. See 20 C.F.R.
4 16.929(a). Therefore the AU did not err in omitting his consideration of this evidence..
B. Whether Substantial Evidence Supports the AU’ s Decision that Plaintiff Retained an
RFC Capable of Performing a Full Range of Light Work Prior to February 24, 2012
Plaintiff argues that the AU’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination was
conclusory and is not supported by the medical evidence in the record. (P1. Br. at 19). Plaintiff
specifically contends that the AU failed to consider the Plaintiffs physical limitations such
difficulty with weight bearing, and standing or walking for any length of time. (P1. Br. at 20).
Plaintiff further argues that the AU failed to consider non-physical impairments which would
hamper her ability to perform light work further. (P1. Br. at 20). A claimant’s RFC is considered
before moving on to step four of the five step sequential evaluation. 20 C.F.R.
The RFC is used to determine if a claimant can do their past relevant work; if they cannot the
fifth step determines whether they can adjust to other work.
§ 416.920(c). In
analyzing whether a claimant can adjust to other work, the previously determined RFC is
considered together with the claimant’s vocational factors (age, education, and work experience).
§ 416.920(g)(1). Here, the AU determined that Plaintiff, prior to February 24, 2012,
was capable of a full range of light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R.
416.967(b). The Court finds
that there is substantial evidence in support of the AU’ s determination.
The AU did in fact address the medical evidence concerning the Plaintiff’s physical
limitations. (R. at 21-22). He noted that Dr. Fernando found nothing in the X-rays of Plaintiff’s
knees and only reported a slightly decreased range of motion in the right knee and also that Dr.
Fernando indicated that Plaintiff walked with a normal gait. (R. at 22). The AU notes that the
X-ray of the lumbar spine ordered by Dr. Francis was unremarkable, he also notes the X-rays
ordered by Dr. Mevs, which reveal a mild degenerative change in the right knee. (R. at 22). He
details Dr. Eyassu’s report which states that Plaintiff had a full range of motion in her knees, but
had a limping gait. (R. at 22). After detailing the evidence the AU found that the subjective
complaints of pain were far in excess of what could be reasonably expected, given Plaintiff’s
medical records. (R. at 24).
The AU had also considered the mental impairments of the Plaintiff and found them to
be non-severe as they were nothing more than mild. (R. at 21). 1ndeed, the medical evidence in
the record as well as that which is cited by the AU in his decision attests to the fact that there is
a negligible showing of a mental impairment. (R. at 204-205, 236-238). Therefore, the Court
finds that there is substantial evidence to support the decision of the AU in finding that Plaintiff
had an RFC capable of light work prior to February 24, 2012.
Accordingly, this Court finds that the AU’s determination that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to
February 24, 2012 is supported by substantial evidence. As such, the final decision of the
Commissioner is affirmed.
For the foregoing reasons, the decisions of the Administrative Law Judge are affirmed.
An appropriate order follows this Opinion.
DATED: of June, 2015.
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