Fudge v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM signed by Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr on 7/31/2017. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(hb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHERRY ANN FUDGE,
NANCY BERRYHILL, 1
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,,
CHIEF JUDGE CRENSHAW
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sherry Ann Fudge’s Motion for Judgment on the
Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Doc. No. 14), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Doc.
No. 15). Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a Response in
Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion. (Doc. No. 16.) For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies
Plaintiff’s Motion (Doc. No. 14).
Fudge filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act on July 18, 2012, alleging a disability onset of March 31, 2012. (Tr. 13.)
Fudge’s claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. (Tr.
13.) Fudge subsequently requested de novo review of this case by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The ALJ heard the case on August 14, 2014, when Fudge appeared with counsel and
gave testimony. (Tr. 29–80.) Testimony was also received from an impartial vocational expert.
Nancy Berryhill became Acting Commissioner for the Social Security Administration on
January 23, 2017.
(Tr. 70–79.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until
October 8, 2014, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Fudge not disabled. (Tr. 10–
28.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through
December 31, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2012, the
alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: a mood disorder, an anxiety
disorder, obesity, hypothyroidism, lumbago, and hypertension (20 C.F.R.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, … the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform medium exertion work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(c) except she can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and
frequently engage in all other postural activities. She must avoid concentrated
exposure to temperature extremes and humidity. As for mental limitations, she can
understand, remember, and carry out simple and detailed instructions, but not highly
complex instructions. She can complete simple tasks and maintain adequate
concentration, persistence and pace on the above tasks throughout an eight-hour
workday for periods of two hours at a time with regular or customary work breaks.
She can relate appropriately to peers and supervisors, but can have no more than
occasionally contact with the general public on a brief and superficial basis. She can
adapt to routine workplace changes.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as an order filler. This
work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant’s residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
from March 31, 2012, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f)).
(Tr. 15, 17, 22–23.)
On February 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Fudge’s request for review of the
ALJ’s decision (Tr. 1–6), thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Review of the Record
The following summary of the medical record is taken from the ALJ’s decision:
The claimant has a history of hypertension and was a smoker. She
complained of chest discomfort in September 2010. On September
1, 2010, treatment notes states that she had worked as a stocker in
the past and never had trouble lifting 50 pounds of weight. At that
time, she was working as a supervisor. On physical examination,
her blood pressure was 134/90 and she weighed 167 pounds. Sunil
C. Kaza, M.D. diagnosed the claimant with hypertension, anginal
symptoms, ongoing smoking, and hypothyroidism. Dr. Kaza
advised the claimant to quit smoking among other
recommendations. (Exhibit 2F).
She received medical treatment at Family Healthcare since March
2007. (Exhibit 8F). Donald A. Spisak, DO treated the claimant for
low back pain, cervicalgia and hypothyroidism from July 2011
through July 2012. On March 9, 2012, the claimant’s blood
pressure was 136/82. Her body mass index was 34.5. She was
positive for depression with no obvious anxiety or agitation. Dr.
Spisak assessed the claimant with depression, hypothyroidism,
hypertension, low back pain, and cervicalgia. In June/July 2012,
Dr. Spisak’s assessment of the claimant included only
hypertension, hypothyroidism, anxiety, bipolar disorder and
depression, and there were no diagnoses identified for back or neck
problems. (Exhibit 7F).
W. Michael Lewis, M.D. and Christopher L. Craft, Family Nurse
Practitioner–Board Certified treated the claimant for hypertension,
anxiety, and back problems from March 2012 through January
2013. She presented for treatment on the following dates:
8/8/2012, 9/7/2012, 12/11/2012, and 1/11/2013. She presented to
Mr. Craft with anxiety and depression worsening, chronic pain due
to a motor vehicle collision three to four years ago, muscle spasm,
and hypothyroidism on December 11, 2012. Medications were as
follows: Amlodipine, Depakote, Dulaera, Flexeril, Hydrocodoneacetaminophen, Imdur, Klonopin, Levothyroxine, Nitroglycerin,
Xanax, and Zoloft. On physical examination, her body mass index
was 36. On musculoskeletal examination, her gait was coordinated
and smooth. Her station was steady. Mood and affect was
abnormal as she appeared to be in deep melancholoy [sic], sad, and
worrisome. Mr. Craft’s assessment of the claimant was anxiety,
depression, chronic pain, muscle spasm, hypothyroidism, and
anxiety with depression. Upon her return to Dr. Lewis and Mr.
Craft on January 11, 2013, her anxiety and depression had
improved. Hypertension was noted to be controlled. However, her
low back pain had not changed. She was 63 inches tall and
weighed 210 pounds with a body mass index of 37.2. Blood
pressure was 132/80. Although she was positive for back pain on
review of systems, she exhibited a coordinated and smooth gait
that was slow and cautious. Station was steady. She was assessed
with essential benign hypertension, anxiety, bipolar disorder,
anxiety with depression, depression, and low back pain. Mr. Craft
instructed the claimant to follow up in three months. (Exhibit
In “Case Analyses” dated December 4, 2012 and February 28,
2013, Larry Caldwell, M.D. and Kanika Chaudhuri, M.D.,
respectively, determined the claimant’s impairments of
hypertension, obesity, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and incontinence
were nonsevere based upon treating records up to August 2012 and
the claimant’s function reports. (Exhibits 1A and 3A).
The claimant presented to Karla McQuain, Ph.D. for a
psychological evaluation on November 13, 2012. She reported
that she was unable to work because of ‘Nerves, Depression;
Bipolar; IBS; Incontinence; Hypertension; No mental treatment
source.’ (Exhibit 9F, p. 1). She stated she had a history of being a
‘weekend drunk’ in her early thirties, but denied current use of
drugs. She reported that prior to caring for her father for the past
two years, she cared for her ex-husband who was severely
handicapped from a motorcycle accident. She felt like she spent so
much time caring for her ex-husband, her father, and working until
now that they are all missing from her life, she had become
depressed and anxious. (Exhibit 9F).
As for activities of daily living, she could manage her finances and
medications with some difficulty. She stated she was able to
prepare simple meals, wash dishes, vacuum, sweep, and do
laundry, although she had not been performing these chores very
often over the last six to eight months because she did not feel like
it. She stated her main social support was her friend. She used to
care for her horse and sewing, but no longer enjoyed these
activities. She was not a part of a church or social organization.
The claimant’s current Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”)
score was 50-55, indicating moderate difficulty in social and/or
occupational functioning. DSM-IV-TR (2000 text revision). In
summary, she showed evidence of mild impairment in social
relating and in her ability to adapt to change. Dr. McQuain’s
diagnostic impression of the claimant included anxiety disorder
with mixed anxiety and depressive symptoms with some panic
attacks, and prior history of alcohol abuse. (Exhibit 9F).
She recently began outpatient mental health treatment at
Centerstone Mental Health Facility from December 2013 through
June 2014. On January 13, 2014, she presented to Lowell Benson,
Jr., MA for individual therapy. She reported dealing with
depression and anxiety. She reported a history of mental abuse by
her father (who passed away in February 2012) and her second
husband. Progress notes state her mood and affect were somewhat
depressed with occasional crying spells.
She denied any
suicidal/homicidal ideations. She reported excessive hours of
sleep on March 10, 2014, and 14 hours of sleep on the previous
night. She stated she mainly dealt with irritable mood. She
described financial stressors and medical issues without health
insurance. Her mood and affect was appropriate. (Exhibit 13F, p.
31). The claimant failed to show for her appointments on March
31 and April 2, 2014. Progress notes dated April 7, 2014 state the
claimant had been out of Latuda for several days. Her primary
care physician had her taking Wellbutrin XL, Effexor, Lortabs,
Clonazapam, and Xanax. She stated Latuda was calming for her,
which resulted in less anger and irritability. Her mental status
examination was unremarkable. (Exhibit 13F, p. 25). Karen D.
Kyper, Registered Nurse diagnosed her with major depressive
disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Exhibit 13F).
As of June 2, 2014, her mood and affect was pleasant and stable.
Sleep and appetite was described as fair to good. Ms. Kyper
intended to discontinue Wellbutrin XL.
On mental status
examination, her mood was euthymic; affect was blunted.
Attention was intact. She had mild impairment in concentration.
She denied hallucinations, delusions, or ideations. Memory and
judgment were intact, and her insight was good. Her diagnoses
remained unchanged and she was noted as stable. (Exhibit 13F, p.
Celine Payne-Gair, Ph.D. completed a Psychiatric Review
Technique Form (“PRTF”) and functional capacity assessment on
November 26, 2012. Dr. Payne-Gair determined the claimant had
“mild” limitations with restriction of activities of daily living.
However, Dr. Payne-Gair stated the claimant had “moderate”
limitations with difficulties in maintaining social functioning and
in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. According to
Dr. Payne-Gair, the claimant did not experience any repeated
episodes of decompensation. (Exhibit 1A, pp. 7–8). In the
functional capacity assessment, Dr. Payne-Gair stated the claimant
could understand and remember simple and detailed instructions.
She could complete simple tasks and maintain attention and
concentration for periods of at least two hours, and complete a
normal workday and workweek at a consistent pace. Dr. PayneGair noted she could relate appropriately to peers and supervisors,
and adapt to routine workplace changes. (Exhibit 1A, p. 11). The
PRTF and functional capacity assessment by Jenaan Khaleeli,
Psy.D. dated February 15, 2013 was identical to the findings by
Dr. Payne-Gair. (Exhibit 3A).
Conclusions of Law
A. Standard of Review
Judicial review of “any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after
a hearing” is authorized by section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, which empowers the
district court “to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without
remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court reviews the final decision
of the Commissioner to determine whether substantial evidence supports that agency’s findings
and whether it applied the correct legal standards. Miller v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d 825,
833 (6th Cir. 2016). Substantial evidence means “‘more than a mere scintilla’ but less than a
preponderance; substantial evidence is such ‘relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’” Id. (quoting Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772
(6th Cir. 2001)). In determining whether substantial evidence supports the agency’s findings, a
court must examine the record as a whole, “tak[ing] into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight.” Brooks v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 531 F. App’x 636, 641 (6th Cir.
2013) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 388 (6th Cir. 1984)). The agency’s decision
must stand if substantial evidence supports it, even if the record contains evidence supporting the
opposite conclusion. See Hernandez v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 644 F. App’x 468, 473 (6th Cir.
2016) (citing Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)).
Accordingly, this Court may not “try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or
decide questions of credibility.” Ulman v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir.
2012) (quoting Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007)). Where, however, an ALJ
fails to follow agency rules and regulations, the decision lacks the support of substantial
evidence, “even where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the record.”
Miller, 811 F.3d at 833 (quoting Gentry v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 741 F.3d 708, 722 (6th Cir.
B. The Five-Step Inquiry
The claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing entitlement to benefits by proving
his or her “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 months.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The claimant’s “physical or mental impairment” must “result from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Id. § 423(d)(3). The agency considers
a claimant’s case under a five-step sequential evaluation process, described by the Sixth Circuit
Court of Appeals as follows:
1. A claimant who is engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be
disabled regardless of medical findings.
2. A claimant who does not have a severe impairment will not be found to be disabled.
3. A finding of disability will be made without consideration of vocational factors, if a
claimant is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets the
duration requirement and which meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 to
Subpart B of the Regulations. Claimants with lesser impairments proceed to step
4. A claimant who can perform work that he has done in the past will not be found to be
5. If a claimant cannot perform his past work, other factors including age, education,
past work experience and residual functional capacity must be considered to
determine if other work can be performed.
Parks v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 413 F. App’x 856, 862 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Cruse v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539 (6th Cir. 2007)); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant
bears the burden through step four of proving the existence and severity of the limitations her
impairments cause and the fact that she cannot perform past relevant work; however, at step five,
“the burden shifts to the Commissioner to ‘identify a significant number of jobs in the economy
that accommodate the claimant’s residual functioning capacity[.]” Kepke v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 636 F. App’x 625, 628 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Warner v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d
387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004)).
The agency can carry its burden at the fifth step of the evaluation process by relying on
the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, otherwise known as “the grids,” but only if a nonexertional
impairment does not significantly limit the claimant, and then only when the claimant’s
characteristics precisely match the characteristics of the applicable grid rule. See Anderson v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 406 F. App’x 32, 35 (6th Cir. 2010); Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611,
615–16 (6th Cir. 2003).
Otherwise, the grids only function as a guide to the disability
determination. Wright, 321 F.3d at 615–16; see Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir.
1990). Where the grids do not direct a conclusion as to the claimant’s disability, the agency
must rebut the claimant’s prima facie case by coming forward with proof of the claimant’s
individual vocational qualifications to perform specific jobs, typically through vocational expert
testimony. Anderson, 406 F. App’x at 35; see Wright, 321 F.3d at 616 (quoting SSR 83-12,
1983 WL 31253, at *4 (Jan. 1, 1983)).
When determining a claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) at steps four and
five, the agency must consider the combined effect of all the claimant’s impairments, mental and
physical, exertional and nonexertional, severe and nonsevere. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(B),
(5)(B); Glenn v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 763 F.3d 494, 499 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing 20 C.F.R.
C. Plaintiff’s Statement of Error
1. Severe Impairments
Fudge’s first argument is that the ALJ erred by failing to classify her osteoarthritis,
Raynaud’s syndrome, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, residuals from left arm ulnar release
surgery, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder with agoraphobia as severe impairments. (Doc. No.
15 at 5–7.) The Court disagrees.
At step two of the sequential evaluation process, “the ALJ must find that the claimant has
a severe impairment or impairments” to be disabled. Farris v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.,
773 F.2d 85, 88 (6th Cir. 1985); see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(h). “[A]n impairment is
considered ‘severe’ unless ‘the [claimant’s] impairment(s) has no more than a minimal effect on
his or her physical or mental ability(ies) to perform basic work activities.” Winn v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 615 F. App’x 315, 324 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Soc. Sec. Ruling 85-28, 1985 WL
56856, at *3 (1985)). As such, “the claimant’s burden of establishing a ‘severe’ impairment
during the second step of the disability determination process is a ‘de minimis hurdle.’” Id. at
324–25 (quoting Higgs v. Bowen, 880 F.2d 860, 862 (6th Cir. 1988)). “Under [this] prevailing
de minimis view, an impairment can be considered not severe only if it is a slight abnormality
that minimally affects work ability regardless of age, education, and experience.” Id. at 325
(quoting Higgs, 880 F.2d at 862).
“[O]nce any one impairment is found to be severe, the ALJ must consider both severe
and nonsevere impairments in the subsequent steps.” McGlothin v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 299 F.
App’x 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Anthony v. Astrue, 266 F. App’x 451, 457 (6th Cir.
2008)); 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(2). Therefore, it is “legally irrelevant” that an impairment was
determined to be nonsevere if the ALJ finds other severe impairments. See McGlothin, 299 F.
App’x at 522 (reasoning that “because the ALJ found that [plaintiff] has some severe
impairments, he proceeded to complete steps three through five of the analysis. It then became
‘legally irrelevant’ that her other impairments were determined to be not severe.”) (quoting
Higgs, 880 F.2d at 862). As explained by the Sixth Circuit,
[a]n ALJ’s failure to find a severe impairment where one exists
may not constitute reversible error where the ALJ determines that a
claimant has at least one other severe impairment and continues
with the remaining steps of the disability evaluation. This rule is
predicated on the notion that the ALJ “properly could consider
claimant’s [non-severe impairments] in determining whether
claimant retained sufficient residual functional capacity to allow
[him] to perform substantial gainful activity.”
Winn, 615 F. App’x at 326 (citing Maziarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d 240,
244 (6th Cir. 1987)); see also Fisk v. Astrue, 253 F. App’x 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2007) (holding that
an ALJ’s failure to find an impairment severe at step two is not reversible error if the ALJ
“considers all of a claimant’s impairments in the remaining steps of the disability
determination.”); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1523 (stating that when making a disability determination, the
Regulations require that if one severe impairment exists, the Commissioner “will consider the
combined effect of all of your impairments without regard to whether any such impairment, if
considered separately, would be of sufficient severity.”).
In the present case, the ALJ found that Fudge had a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder,
obesity, hypothyroidism, lumbago, and hypertension impairments during the relevant period.
(Tr. 15.) Fudge claims her osteoarthritis, Raynaud’s syndrome, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome,
residuals from left arm ulnar release surgery, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder with
agoraphobia should also have been found to be severe. Even assuming Fudge is correct, the
Court finds that any error in this regard was harmless. The ALJ found six conditions constituted
severe impairments and then continued on with the disability analysis. (See Tr. 15.) Thus,
Fudge succeeded at step two. Further, the ALJ considered both her severe and nonsevere
impairments when determining her RFC, as evidenced by his thorough discussion of her physical
and mental medical treatment records. (Tr. 18–20.) The Court also notes that Fudge does not
argue which, if any, additional functional limitations would have been supported by the record.
Therefore, Fudge’s first claim of reversible error fails because it is “legally irrelevant” that the
ALJ classified her other impairments as nonsevere.
Fudge contends that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider her functional
limitations as the result of her obesity, as allegedly required by SSR 02-01p. (Doc. No. 15 at 7–
However, her reliance on SSR 02-01p is misplaced.
SSR 02-01p explains the
Administration’s policy on the evaluation of obesity. The ruling serves to “remind adjudicators
to consider [obesity’s] effects when evaluating disability.” SSR 02-01p. According to the Sixth
Social Security Ruling 02-01p does not mandate a particular mode
of analysis. It only states that obesity, in combination with other
impairments “may” increase the severity of other limitations. It is
a mischaracterization to suggest that Social Security Ruling 02-01p
offers any particular mode of analysis for obese disability
Bledsoe v. Barnhart, 165 F. App’x 408, 411–12 (6th Cir. 2006).
Here, the ALJ properly accounted for the effects that obesity has on Fudge’s ability to
perform medium work. In his RFC analysis, the ALJ stated:
Further, the undersigned has specifically considered claimant’s
obesity in accordance with Social Security Ruling 02-1p. The
claimant is 63 inches tall and weighs approximately 210 pounds as
per testimony and according to Dr. Lewis, a treating source.
(Exhibit 10F). Under the National Institutes of Health criteria, this
translates to a body mass index of 37.2, which is considered obese.
Social Security Ruling 02-1p provides guidance for evaluating
claims where obesity is an impairment. The ruling clarifies that
obesity can cause limitations of functions such as sitting, standing,
walking, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. It can also affect
postural functions such as climbing, balancing, stooping, and
crouching. The claimant’s ability to perform routine movement
and necessary physical activity within the work environment has
been impaired by her obesity. The combined effects of her obesity
with her other impairments is greater than might be expected
without the obesity. The functional effects of this impairment have
been incorporated into the assessed residual functional capacity.
(Tr. 20 (emphasis added).) The ALJ clearly took Fudge’s obesity into consideration when
analyzing her functional limitations and incorporated postural limitations into the RFC
determination. (Tr. 17.)
Moreover, Fudge has offered no evidence or argument that an additional restriction
resulting from her obesity required greater limitations than those already found by the ALJ in his
RFC assessment. See Lyons v. Astrue, No. 3:10-cv-502, 2012 WL 529587, at *4 (E.D. Tenn.
Feb. 17, 2012) (noting that “plaintiff has not offered any evidence or argument, either in her
objection or her initial motion, that a restriction resulting from her obesity required greater
limitations than those found by the ALJ in his RFC determination”). Therefore, the Court finds
that the ALJ sufficiently accounted for the impact that Fudge’s obesity has on her ability to
perform medium work.
3. RFC Assessment
Fudge also claims the ALJ erred by failing to include a function-by-function assessment
in the RFC assessment as required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545, and explained in SSR 96-8p. (Doc.
No. 15 at 8–9.) SSR 96-8p states that the ALJ should address a claimant’s exertional and
nonexertional capacities and also describe how the evidence supports his conclusions. See
Delgado v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 30 F. App’x 542, 547–48 (6th Cir. 2002) (per curiam); see also
Winslow v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 566 F. App’x 418, 421 (6th Cir. 2014) (holding “that the ALJ
complied with the applicable regulations by assessing each of [the claimant’s] work-related
limitations that were at issue.”); Rudd v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 531 F. App’x 719, 729 (6th Cir.
2013) (finding that the ALJ complied with SSR 96-8p because he “fully specified [claimant’s]
exertional and nonexertional abilities.”).
Here, the record reflects that the ALJ complied with the applicable regulations by
assessing each of Fudge’s work-related limitations that were at issue. Additionally, Fudge
asserts that “the ALJ failed to include substantial limitations in the RFC finding correlating to
symptoms and limitations which were well-documented in the record.” (Doc. No. 15 at 9.)
However, she neglects to identify any limitations unaccounted for by the ALJ. See Delgado, 30
F. App’x at 547 (citations omitted) (“[C]ase law does not require the ALJ to discuss those
capacities for which no limitation is alleged.”) As such, the Court finds that Fudge’s third
argument also lacks merit.
4. GAF Score
Fudge’s final argument is that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider her GAF
score. (Doc. No. 15 at 9–10.) As the ALJ stated, Fudge had a GAF score in the low 50’s. (Tr.
19, 468, 492.)
A scale of 51–60 indicates moderate symptoms (e.g., flat affect and
circumstantial speech, occasional panic attacks) or moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or
school functioning (e.g., few friends, conflicts with co-workers). Fudge asserts that the ALJ
improperly reduced the severity of her mental health condition based upon her GAF score. This
misconstrues the ALJ’s stated reasoning. The ALJ merely noted the score in his summary of the
medical record. (Tr. 19.) There is also substantial evidence on the record aside from the GAF
score that supports the ALJ’s mental RFC determination. For instance, the ALJ noted that a
majority of Fudge’s mental status exams were unremarkable, her diagnoses remained stable, and
the ALJ found that during the hearing her “emotions seemed to have been contrived for theatrical
effect.” (Tr. 21.) Finally, while a GAF score may not be dispositive, the ALJ was permitted to
consider it in assessing Fudge’s mental RFC. See Konecky v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 167 F.
App’x 496, 503 n.7 (6th Cir. 2006) (“A GAF score may help an ALJ assess mental RFC, but it is
not raw medical data. Rather, it allows a mental health professional to turn medical signs and
symptoms into a general assessment, understandable by a lay person, of an individual’s mental
functioning.”). The Court thus finds that Fudge’s fourth argument fails.
For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Record (Doc. No.
14) will be denied and the decision of the Social Security Administration will be affirmed. An
Order will be filed herewith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR.
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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