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Burks v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

September 7, 2017

SHARON FAYE BURKS, Claimant,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Claimant, Sharon Burks, commenced this action on November 15, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and thereby denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.

         The court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983).

         Claimant contends that the Commissioner's decision is neither supported by substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal standards. Specifically, claimant asserts that the ALJ improperly considered her subjective complaints of pain and improperly evaluated her credibility. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that these contentions are without merit, and the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         To demonstrate that pain or another subjective symptom renders the claimant disabled, he or (as in this case) she must “produce ‘evidence of an underlying medical condition and (1) objective medical evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged pain arising from that condition or (2) that the objectively determined medical condition is of such severity that it can be reasonably expected to give rise to the alleged pain.'” Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Landry v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1551, 1553 (11th Cir. 1986)). If an ALJ discredits subjective testimony on pain, “he must articulate explicit and adequate reasons.” Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001, 1004 (11th Cir. 1986); MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1054 (11th Cir. 1986)). Furthermore, “[a]fter considering a claimant's complaints of pain, the ALJ may reject them as not creditable, and that determination will be reviewed for substantial evidence.” Marbury v. Sullivan, 957 F.2d 837, 839 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Wilson v. Heckler, 734 F.2d 513, 517 (11th Cir. 1984)) (alteration supplied). Social Security regulations also provide that the following factors can be considered in evaluating the credibility of a claimant's allegations of pain:

(i) Your daily activities;
(ii) The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of your pain or other symptoms;
(iii) Precipitating and aggravating factors;
(iv) The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication you take or have taken to alleviate your pain or other symptoms;
(v) Treatment, other than medication, you receive or have received for relief of your pain or other symptoms;
(vi) Any measures you use or have used to relieve your pain or other symptoms (e.g., lying flat on your back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, sleeping on a board, etc.); and
(vii) Other factors concerning your functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)(i)-(vii).

         The ALJ found that claimant had the severe impairments of gastroparesis, degenerative disc disease, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and depression.[1] Despite the presence of those conditions, the ALJ found that the objective medical evidence did not support the existence of limitations greater than a residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of medium work.[2] While claimant “may experience some symptoms related to” her medical conditions, the ALJ found that “her symptoms can sometimes suggest a greater level of severity of impairment than can be shown by the objective medical evidence alone.”[3] Those findings were in accordance with applicable regulatory authority. The ALJ also adequately articulated the reasons for his findings. He stated that claimant's daily activities, including some attempted work activity, were greater than would be expected from a totally disabled individual. He also found that the medical treatment claimant had received was relatively conservative and generally effective in controlling her symptoms. Finally, the ALJ considered that none of claimant's treating physicians had imposed any restrictions upon her activity.[4]

         Even though the ALJ's findings were in accordance with applicable law, claimant asserts that those findings were not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ did not appropriately consider ...


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