United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the complaint (doc. 1) of plaintiff Darryl Reed.
In his complaint, plaintiff seeks judicial review of an
adverse final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“the Commissioner”)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court has reviewed
the pertinent record and the parties' briefs.
the duty of the Court to review the decision of the ALJ and
not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its decision for the
ALJ's. In particular, the Court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if it is supported by substantial evidence, even if
there is evidence that supports the opposite conclusion. The
Court must also determine whether the ALJ applied the correct
protectively filed an application for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits on April 3, 2017, alleging
disability beginning on December 6, 2016. The administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on January 10,
2018, and issued an unfavorable decision on March 21, 2018.
contends that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the
credibility of his complaints of pain consistent with the
Eleventh Circuit standard. More specifically, plaintiff
argues that the ALJ's credibility determination was not
supported by substantial evidence. Effective March 28, 2016,
Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-7p was
superseded by SSR 16-3p to clarify the process by which an
assessment of the credibility of claims of pain is made. SSR
16-3p sets forth a two-step process. First, the ALJ must
determine whether the individual has a medically determinable
impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the
alleged symptoms. SSR 16-3p, Evaluations of Symptoms in
Disability Claims, 2016 WL 1119029, at *3. Second, once the
existence of a medically determinable impairment that could
reasonably be expected to produce pain or other symptoms is
established, the ALJ evaluates the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects of the symptoms. Id. at *4. As
plaintiff points out, SSR 16-3p states that “it is not
sufficient for our adjudicators to make a single, conclusory
statement that ‘the individual's statements about
his or her symptoms have been considered' or that
‘the statements about the individual's symptoms are
(or are not) supported or consistent.'”
Id. at *9.
this is not what the ALJ did in this case. To be sure, the
ALJ did conclude that plaintiff's medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms, but that his statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of these symptoms were not
entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other
evidence of record. (R. 18). But the ALJ then went on to
describe, in great detail, plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments and why plaintiff's alleged
symptoms (and onset date) were not entirely consistent with
the record evidence. (Id. at 18-22).
the ALJ noted that plaintiff has diabetes mellitus, but that
he did not always take his medication as directed.
(Id. at 49-50, 1041, 1989). The ALJ also recognized
that plaintiff has neuropathy related to his diabetes;
however, he had continued working through December 2016 with
the neuropathy. Additionally, an examination on June 2017
revealed that, while plaintiff had some decreased sensation
in his left arm, grip strength, range of motion, and
dexterity were normal in both hands with no muscle atrophy.
(Id. at 1890-96). This examination was largely
consistent with June 2016 medical records indicating almost
all normal grip strength, normal sensation findings, and no
muscle atrophy. (Id. at 863-65; see also
id. at 1892).
also noted that a July 2016 MRI indicated disc bulging and
mild facet hypertrophy at ¶ 2-L3; posterior disc
protraction resulting in moderate spinal canal narrowing with
compression of the nerve roots in the lateral recess at the
L3-L4 level; posterior disc herniation and facet hypertrophy
at ¶ 4-L5 with moderate narrowing of the spinal canal
and foramina with compression of the L5 nerve roots; and
posterior disc herniation and facet hypertrophy with mild
bilateral neuroforaminal narrowing at ¶ 5-S1.
(Id. at 466-67). Overall, it was noted that these
findings indicated stable degenerative changes at ¶ 3-L4
and L4-L5 resulting in narrowing and compression of the
transiting nerve roots in the lateral recesses. (Id.
at 467). An MRI of the cervical spine taken the same day
showed stable mild central disc protrusion at ¶ 3-C4
with no significant cord compression. (Id. at 461).
However, plaintiff's physical examinations revealed
normal gait, normal motor strength, and normal range of
motion. (Id. at 20, 418, 606, 612, 1148, 1365-66).
Furthermore, although plaintiff presented with a cane at
times, overall examinations revealed that he walked with a
normal non-antalgic gate, and plaintiff has not pointed to
any record where a cane was mandated or prescribed by a
physician. (Id. at 95, 606, 673, 749, 1148, 1278,
1396, 1429, 1440, 1522, 1548, 1764); Brenneman v.
Berryhill, No. CV 116-043, 2017 WL 1739176, at *3 (S.D.
Ga. Apr. 12, 2017), report and recommendation
adopted, No. CV 116-043, 2017 WL 1745059 (S.D. Ga. May
3, 2017) (noting that there must be medical documentation
establishing the need for a hand-held assistive device such
as a cane and describing the circumstances for which it is
needed, and that a claimant must show more than generalized
evidence of a condition that might require a cane).
also noted several records undermined plaintiff's
testimony. For example, in August 2012, plaintiff reported
that he could walk for up to one-and-a-half miles, which
conflicts with his 2018 hearing testimony that he could only
stand for five minutes. (Id. at 985, 1648).
Additionally, the ALJ found that the record showed no
worsening of plaintiff's impairments in relation to his
alleged onset date in December 2016; rather, the ALJ noted
that plaintiff was let go from his job as a security guard at
that time. Thus, the Court finds that there is substantial
evidence to support the ALJ's conclusion that, while the
objective medical evidence demonstrated degenerative changes
over time, plaintiff had these impairments before his onset
date, and there is no evidence that he stopped working due to
plaintiff argues that the ALJ references only isolated
portions of the June 2017 consultative examination by Dr.
Mollohan. (Id. at 20, 1889-96). The main thrust of
plaintiff's argument appears to be that the ALJ did not
credit plaintiff's statements to Dr. Mollohan that his
neck and back pain were aggravated by sitting or walking more
than fifteen minutes and were alleviated by massage, traction
machine, and a cane; Dr. Mollohan also noted that plaintiff
reported experiencing pain while walking 120 feet. The Court
finds that the ALJ did not cherry pick from Dr.
Mollohan's records. The fact that Dr. Mollohan concluded
that plaintiff's clinical exam findings were consistent
with his complaints are not inconsistent with the ALJ's
determination. The ALJ noted that Dr. Mollohan's
examination revealed tenderness in the cervical, thoracic,
and lumbar spine; limited range of motion in cervical spine;
and slight limitation of motion in the lumbar spine. However,
as the ALJ noted, Dr. Mollohan also indicated that plaintiff
walked with a non-antalgic gait; could sit, get up, and get
on and off the examination table without difficulty; and was
able to sit and stand for thirty minutes without difficulty.
In short, the ALJ did not err in his assessment of Dr.
Mollohan's examination. The ALJ weighed the evidence as
he was required to do.
the Court finds that the ALJ did not simply pick and choose a
few medical records to support his conclusion. Rather, the
ALJ addressed the medical record as a whole and articulated
his reasons for not fully crediting plaintiff's
subjective complaints of pain. See, e.g., Monge
v. Berryhill, No. 17-22005-CIV, 2018 WL 4776085, at *2
(S.D. Fla. Aug. 10, 2018) (“Judge Goodman found the ALJ
did not ignore evidence or pick and choose between records,
but addressed the medical evidence as a whole, including the
evidence supplied by Plaintiff.”). Thus, the Court
finds that the ALJ's evaluation of plaintiff's
credibility with respect to his complaints of pain and
alleged onset date was supported by substantial evidence.
IT IS ORDERED that the decision of the ...