United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
Mitchell Dagnan, commenced this action on August 21, 2018,
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 his claim for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits. For
the reasons stated herein, the court finds that the
Commissioner's ruling is due to be affirmed.
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).
alleged disability beginning on August 15, 2007, and he last
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act on December 31, 2011. The ALJ found that claimant suffered
from the severe impairment of chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, but that he nonetheless was capable of performing a
limited range of medium work, with limitations including the
need to avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants
and poorly ventilated work areas. Claimant contends that the
Commissioner's decision is neither supported by
substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal
standards because the ALJ improperly evaluated the effects of
claimant's shortness of breath on his ability to work.
demonstrate that a subjective impairment, like shortness of
breath, renders him disabled, claimant 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)).
“After 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)) (emphasis supplied). 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
properly applied those legal principles. She found that
“claimant's medically determinable impairment could
reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms;
however, the claimant's statements concerning the
intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms
are not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence in the record for the reasons explained in
this decision.”The ALJ also adequately articulated the
reasons for her finding. She pointed out that chest x-rays
showed improvement in claimant's lung function between
December 2008 and December 2009. Chest x-rays from July 2009
did not show any negative changes. Physical examinations from
January and July 2009 revealed a clear chest, good bilateral
breath sounds, no wheezes or rhonchi, only slightly
diminished breath sounds, and no complaints of chest pain.
Claimant continued to deny chest pain in May 2012, and a
physical examination revealed no acute distress, normal heart
rate, regular rhythm, and no abnormal heart
sounds. Those were permissible considerations,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c), and the ALJ's
findings were supported by the record.
asserts that the ALJ should have also relied upon medical
records from 2012 to 2017 that reflect continuing or
worsening symptoms. But because claimant's date last
insured was December 31, 2011, he bore the burden of proving
disability on or before that date. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(a) and (c); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.101,
404.130, and 404.131; Ware v. Schweiker, 651 F.2d
408, 411 n.3 (5th Cir. July 1981). The ALJ mentioned some of
the later records, from mid-2012, because they might
reasonably have some bearing on claimant's functional
abilities prior to the end of 2011, but most of the later
evidence is irrelevant because, if anything, it a reflects a
worsening of claimant's condition after his eligibility
for disability insurance benefits expired.
also noted that claimant denied smoking cigarettes during the
October 2009 examination, but he testified during the
administrative hearing that he did not quit smoking until
September 2015. The ALJ was entitled to take those
inconsistent statements into consideration.
the ALJ considered that claimant did not require assistance
for his personal care and hygiene, and that he could
independently prepare meals, wash dishes, cut grass on a
riding mower, pay bills, and count change. While the ALJ is
allowed to consider a claimant's daily activities in
evaluating the consistency of the claimant's subjective
complaints with the other evidence of record, see 20
C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3)(i), the Eleventh Circuit has
disavowed the notion that “participation in everyday
activities of short duration, such as housework or fishing,
disqualifies a claimant from disability.” Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1441 (11th Cir. 1997). Indeed,
it would have been inappropriate for the ALJ to conclude that
claimant was able to work based solely upon his limited daily
activities, but that was not the ALJ's only
consideration. She also, and more importantly, relied upon
claimant's inconsistent statements about his smoking
history and the objective medical evidence.
summary, the court concludes the ALJ's decision was based
upon substantial evidence and in accordance with applicable
legal standards. Accordingly, the decision of the
Commissioner will be affirmed. A separate final judgment will
be entered contemporaneously herewith.
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