United States District Court, N.D. New York
August 2, 2005.
BONNIE J. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARY SHARPE, Magistrate Judge
DECISION AND ORDER
Bonnie Lewis alleges that overuse syndrome of the upper
extremities and pain have disabled her, and challenges the denial
of benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. Having
reviewed the administrative record, the court affirms the
II. Procedural History
After Lewis filed for disability insurance and supplemental
security benefits in December 1997, her application was denied,
and a hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge James
Johnsen (ALJ). In April 1999, the ALJ issued a decision denying
benefits, which became the Commissioner's final determination
when the Appeals Council denied review on June 9, 2000.*fn1
On August 11, 2000, Lewis brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the Commissioner's final
determination. The Commissioner then filed an answer and a
certified administrative transcript, Lewis filed a brief, and the
Commissioner responded. III. Contentions
Lewis contends that the Commissioner's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. She claims the ALJ erroneously
(1) assessed her residual functional capacity; (2) disregarded
the opinion of her treating physician; and (3) disregarded her
subjective complaints about pain and disabling symptoms. The
Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the
The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts
the parties' factual recitations. See Pl.'s Br. at 2-6; Def.'s
Br. at 3-8.
A. Standard and Scope of Review
When reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under
42 U.S.C. 405(g),*fn2 the court "must determine whether the
correct legal standards were applied and whether substantial
evidence supports the decision." Butts v. Barnhart,
388 F.3d 377, 384 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). It does not determine de novo whether a claimant is disabled. See
Curry v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 117, 122 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation
omitted). Although the Commissioner is ultimately responsible for
determining a claimant's eligibility, the actual disability
determination is made by an ALJ, and that decision is subject to
judicial review on appeal. A court may not affirm an ALJ's
decision if it reasonably doubts whether the proper legal
standards were applied, even if it appears to be supported by
substantial evidence. See Pollard v. Halter, 377 F.3d 183,
188-89 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); Johnson v. Bowen,
817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987). "Failure to apply the correct legal
standards is grounds for reversal." Pollard, 377 F.3d at 189
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
A court's factual review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited to the determination of whether substantial evidence in
the record supports the decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see
also Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991).
"Substantial evidence . . . means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998)
(quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971))
(internal quotation marks omitted). It must be "more than a mere
scintilla" of evidence scattered throughout the administrative record. Williams ex rel. Williams
v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted).
An ALJ must set forth the crucial factors justifying his findings
with sufficient specificity to allow a court to determine whether
substantial evidence supports the decision. See Ferraris v.
Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984). "To determine on
appeal whether an ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining
the evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the
substantiality of the evidence must also include that which
detracts from its weight." Williams, 859 F.2d at 258 (citations
omitted). However, a reviewing court cannot substitute its
interpretation of the administrative record for that of the
Commissioner if the record contains substantial support for the
ALJ's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Rutherford v.
Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
The court has the authority to affirm, reverse, or modify a
final decision of the Commissioner with or without remand.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Butts, 388 F.3d at 385. Remand is warranted
where there are gaps in the record and further development of the
evidence is needed, or where the ALJ has applied an improper
legal standard. See Butts, 388 F.3d at 385; Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 82-83 (2d Cir. 1999); Parker v.
Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 235 (2d Cir. 1980). Remand is particularly
appropriate where further findings or explanation will clarify
the rationale for the ALJ's decision. Pratts v. Chater,
94 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). By contrast, reversal
and remand solely for calculation of benefits is appropriate when
there is "persuasive proof of disability" and further development
of the record would not serve any purpose. Rosa,
168 F.3d at 83; Parker, 626 F.2d at 235; Carroll v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 705 F.2d 638, 644 (2d Cir. 1983) (reversal without
remand for additional evidence particularly appropriate where
payment of benefits already delayed for four years and remand
would likely result in further lengthening the "painfully slow
process" of determining disability). However, absent sufficient
evidence of disability, delay alone is not a valid basis for
remand solely for calculation of benefits. See Bush v. Shalala,
94 F.3d 40, 46 (2d Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).
B. Five-Step Disability Determination
A plaintiff seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is disabled if
she can establish that she is unable "to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last for
a continuous period of not less than twelve months. . . ."
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A)*fn3 (emphasis added).
The Commissioner uses a five-step process to evaluate SSDI and
SSI claims. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.*fn4 Step
One requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant is
presently engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If so, she is not considered
disabled. However, if she is not engaged in SGA, Step Two requires that the ALJ determine whether the claimant has a severe
impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant
is found to suffer from a severe impairment, Step Three requires
that the ALJ determine whether the claimant's impairment meets or
equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1, §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). The claimant is
presumptively disabled if the impairment meets or equals a listed
impairment. See Ferraris, 728 F.2d at 584. If the claimant is
not presumptively disabled, Step Four requires the ALJ to
consider whether the claimant's residual functional capacity
(RFC) precludes the performance of her past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At Step Five, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant can do any other work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).
The claimant has the burden of showing that she cannot perform
past relevant work. Ferraris, 728 F.2d at 584. However, once
she has met that burden, the ALJ can deny benefits only by
showing, with specific reference to medical evidence, that she
can perform some less demanding work. See White v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 910 F.2d 64, 65 (2d Cir. 1990);
Ferraris, 728 F.2d at 584. In making this showing, the ALJ must
consider the claimant's RFC, age, education, past work
experience, and transferability of skills, to determine if she can perform other
work existing in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(f); see New York v. Sullivan, 906 F.2d 910, 913 (2d
In this case, the ALJ found that Lewis satisfied Step One
because she had not worked since June 6, 1997. (Tr. 14, 20). In
Step Two, the ALJ determined that she suffered from overuse
syndrome of the upper extremities. (Tr. 14-16, 20).*fn5 In
Step Three, the ALJ determined that this impairment failed to
meet or equal a combination of impairments listed in, or
medically equal to one listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P,
Regulations No. 4. (Tr. 16, 20). In Step Four, the ALJ determined
that Lewis did not have the RFC to perform her past relevant work
as a personal care aide, spooler-inspector at a factory, shirt
presser, packer, or battery store counter person. (Tr. 19, 20).
In Step Five, the ALJ found that Lewis possessed the RFC to
perform the full range of light work,*fn6 with a limitation on pushing and pulling less than twenty pounds with her upper
extremities. (Tr. 19, 20). Consequently, he found Lewis not
disabled*fn7 and denied benefits. (Tr. 19, 21).
1. Substantial Evidence for Lewis's RFC
Lewis argues that the ALJ's determination that she had the RFC
for light work is contrary to the medical record and her own
testimony, and as such is unsupported by substantial evidence.
Consequently, she contends that the ALJ erred when he substituted
his judgment for that of competent medical sources. Lewis's
position is without merit.
The Regulations define RFC as "what [an individual] can still
do despite [her] limitations." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a),
416.945(a). At the review level relevant here, the responsibility
for determining a claimant's RFC rests with the ALJ.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1546, 416.946. An ALJ's RFC assessment is a medical
determination that must be based on probative medical evidence of
record. See Gray v. Chater, 903 F. Supp. 293, 301 (N.D.N.Y.
1995) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1513(c), (d)(3)). Accordingly, an ALJ may not substitute his own judgment for competent medical
opinion. See Rosa, 168 F.3d at 79; Balsamo v. Chater,
142 F.3d 75, 81 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). However, as
explained below, such is not the case here.
Lewis contends that the ALJ's finding that she could do light
work was solely based on the March 1998 RFC assessment of Dr.
Putcha, a reviewing state agency physician. (Tr.
136-43).*fn8 As an initial matter, the ALJ's reliance on
this RFC assessment was not improper. "State agency physicians
are qualified as experts in the evaluation of medical issues in
disability claims. As such their opinions may constitute
substantial evidence if they are consistent with the record as a
whole." Leach ex rel. Murray v. Barnhart, No. 02 Civ. 3561 RWS,
2004 WL 99935, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2004) (citing
20 C.F.R. § 416.927(f); Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1039 (2d Cir.
1983)); see Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 522 (9th Cir. 1996);
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-6p. Here, Dr. Putcha's assessment
was based on: Lewis's allegation of overuse syndrome; EMG and
nerve conduction studies which showed "no definitive evidence" of carpal tunnel syndrome; and improving grip strength.
In addition, Dr. Putcha considered X-Rays of Lewis's right wrist
and elbow which showed early degenerative arthritis, and X-Rays
of the left wrist and elbow which were negative. The doctor also
considered Lewis's normal range of motion in her shoulders,
elbows, forearms, and fingers. Similarly, Dr. Putcha noted that
Lewis had normal strength in her biceps and triceps ("5/5"), no
muscle atrophy, normal wrist exam results, intact fine
manipulation, and full grip strength ("5/5"). (Tr. 137-38; see
Tr. 135, 147, 132-34, 149).
Dr. Putcha's determination was also consistent with the January
1998 findings of Dr. Singh, an examining physician, which
revealed that Lewis, who had wrist pain on extreme range of
motion, retained full grip strength; normal range of motion in
her upper extremities and spine; and intact bilateral fine
manipulation. Dr. Singh's examination also showed negative
Phalen's test*fn9 and Tinel's sign*fn10 bilaterally,
absence of cervical spine pain or spasm, as well as normal and
symmetrical reflexes in her upper extremities. (Tr. 132-34).
Upon review of the record, Dr. Putcha's assessment is
consistent with and supported by the objective medical record,
and the ALJ properly relied on it for his determination. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(f), 416.927(f); SSR 96-6p. Moreover, the same
records were taken into consideration and amply discussed by the
ALJ in his decision. (Tr. 14-16). Accordingly, based on the
above, the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by substantial
evidence and not erroneous as a matter of law.*fn11
2. Treating Physician Rule
Lewis argues that the ALJ erroneously disregarded the opinion
of her treating orthopedist, Dr. Meeks. Specifically, she claims
that Dr. Meeks' opinion is supported by examination findings made
during the course of her treatment, and that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion based
solely on the doctor's failure to cite specific findings. Lewis's
arguments are misplaced.
Generally, the opinion of a treating physician is given
controlling weight if it is based upon well-supported, medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is
not inconsistent with other substantial evidence.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2), 416.927(d)(2); see Schaal v. Apfel,
134 F.3d 496 (2d Cir. 1998). As already noted, an ALJ may not arbitrarily
substitute his own judgment for a competent medical opinion.
Rosa, 168 F.3d at 79. Thus, if the treating physician's opinion
is not given controlling weight, the ALJ must assess several
factors to determine how much weight to afford the opinion: the
length of the treatment relationship, the frequency of
examination by the treating physician for the condition(s) in
question, the medical evidence supporting the opinion, the
consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, the
qualifications of the treating physician, and other factors
tending to support or contradict the opinion.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2)-(6), 416.927(d)(2)-(6).
Moreover, the "ultimate finding of whether a claimant is
disabled and cannot work [is] `reserved to the Commissioner.'" Snell v.
Apfel, 177 F.3d 128, 133 (2d Cir. 1999) (citation omitted);
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(1), 416.927(e)(1). "That means
that the Social Security Administration considers the data that
physicians provide but draws its own conclusions." Snell,
177 F.3d at 133. Thus, a treating physician's disability assessment
is not determinative. Id. Where the evidence of record includes
medical source opinions that are inconsistent with other evidence
or are internally inconsistent, the ALJ must weigh all of the
evidence and make a disability determination based on the
totality of that evidence. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2),
In a February 1, 1999 letter and contemporaneous examination
note, Dr. Meeks opined that Lewis was "permanently markedly
disabled, although she [wa]s not totally disabled in the extent
that she c[ould] still take care of herself and do routine
activities of daily living with adequate rest," and that he
"d[id] not believe that she [wa]s able to return to gainful
employment." (Tr. 159-60, 169-71). In a medical report dated
March 1, Dr. Meeks cited positive impingement sign and negative
EMG results, together with shoulder overuse syndrome, as the
basis for his prognosis that Lewis was "permanently markedly
disabled although not totally disabled." (Tr. 161).*fn12
In his decision, the ALJ correctly noted that the final
determination of disability was reserved for the Commissioner,
and therefore the doctor's opinion of total disability was not
binding on him. (Tr. 18). The ALJ also found that Dr. Meeks'
opinion was not supported by objective findings about Lewis's
functional capacities, but was instead based on "non-specific,
broad statements" that could not serve as an appropriate or
useful medical assessment. (Tr. 18). While the Commissioner's
Regulations provide that the physician's medical report "should
include . . . [a] statement about what [a claimant] can still do
despite [her] impairment(s)" that is based on the physician's
findings, they do not prejudice the claimant for her doctor's
failure to provide such a specific statement.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1513(b)(6), 416.913(b)(6). Nevertheless, to be entitled to
controlling weight, the opinion of a treating physician must be
based on well-supported, medically acceptable techniques and
consistent with other substantial evidence. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2), 416.927(d)(2). Thus, while the absence of specific functional findings from the
doctor's report did not warrant automatic rejection by the ALJ,
it significantly detracted from the weight of the doctor's
opinion. Accordingly, the ALJ was not required to accord it
greater weight than he did, especially because the opinion was
related to Lewis's disability status, a determination exclusively
reserved to the ALJ. In addition, the ALJ accorded greater weight
to the findings of Dr. Singh and those of the state agency
physicians (already discussed), which, according to the ALJ, were
more specific. (Tr. 18). Upon review, the record supports this
aspect of the ALJ's decision.
The ALJ further determined that Dr. Meeks' assessment was
unsupported by the objective medical record. (Tr. 18). The ALJ's
decision shows that he considered Dr. Meeks' examination findings
in the context of Lewis's testimony and the objective diagnostic
results. (Tr. 14-18). In July 1997, Dr. Meeks assessed that
Lewis, who was complaining of right hand and arm pain, had a
negative Phalen's sign on the right and positive on the left, and
negative Tinel's sign bilaterally. X-Rays of her right wrist and
elbow only showed early degenerative changes. She had normal
pinprick responses, and almost full ("4/5") grip strength
bilaterally. (Tr. 146). An October 1997 EMG study returned normal
results showing no definitive evidence of carpal tunnel. (Tr. 149). In November, Lewis had
negative Phalen's and Tinel's tests. (Tr. 152). In December, her
grip strength had improved, she was neurologically intact, and
had full range of motion in her joints. (Tr. 153).*fn13
Lewis continued to report pain, and her grip strength had
decreased in February and May of 1998. (Tr. 154-55). In August,
her manual motor testing was normal, and she had decreased deep
tendon reflexes. (Tr. 164). A September 1998 shoulder MRI
revealed an intact rotator cuff complex, a scant inflammation in
the rotator interval, and possible signs of adhesive capsulitis.
(Tr. 166). On examination in September and November 1998, Lewis
had normal range of motion. (Tr. 167-68). In February 1999, Lewis
had positive impingement sign bilaterally, tenderness over the
right lateral epicondyle, pain with resisted dorsiflection of the
right wrist, decreased pinprick sensation in her right thumb and
left index and middle fingers, and tenderness in her
shoulder-blade area. However, she had bilateral shoulder
abduction to 165 degrees (despite claiming inability to do her hair), only mildly
decreased grip strength with no significant pain, and grossly
normal motor functions. (Tr. 160). Upon review, the ALJ's
determination that Dr. Meeks' assessment of total disability was
inconsistent with the objective medical record is supported by
The ALJ also deemed Lewis's "perceived disability," cited by
Dr. Meeks in support of his assessment, an improper basis for a
disability determination. (Tr. 18-19). As the Commissioner
correctly notes, this "perceived disability" falls short of
satisfying the statutory standard. In addition, the Commissioner
points to an apparent internal inconsistency in the doctor's
opinion. Indeed, while stating that Lewis was "markedly
permanently disabled," Dr. Meeks went on to state that she was
"not totally disabled" to the extent that she could still take
care of herself and do routine daily activities. (Tr.
160).*fn14 Thus, to the extent this opinion was internally
inconsistent, it was properly rejected by the ALJ.
In a related argument, Lewis contends that the ALJ did not
properly develop the record because he failed to seek further
clarification of the doctor's opinion. Due to the non-adversarial nature of Social
Security proceedings, an ALJ has the duty to affirmatively
develop the record. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 111
(2000); see also Butts, 388 F.3d at 386 (citation omitted). It
is well settled that an ALJ is not relieved of this obligation
even where the claimant is represented by counsel. See Shaw v.
Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000); Schaal,
134 F.3d at 505; Echevarria v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
685 F.2d 751, 755 (2d Cir. 1982). In this case, the record shows that the
ALJ took affirmative steps to obtain from Dr. Meeks a detailed
assessment of Lewis's functional capacity. (Tr. 116-21). In
response, the doctor provided a letter in the form of an opinion
and his most recent treatment note, and only filled out the
medical report part of the form requested by the ALJ. The ALJ's
attempt to obtain the information, together with the doctor's
selective response, belie Lewis's speculative contention. Lewis
fails to explain what, if anything, the ALJ should have done to
obtain the same information Dr. Meeks had already elected not to
Lewis next argues that the ALJ ignored the opinion of Dr.
Masten, an examining orthopedist.*fn15 This contention is misplaced.
The ALJ was not required to mention or discuss every single piece
of evidence in the record. See Mongeur, 722 F.2d at 1040;
Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 469 (2d Cir. 1982); Miles v.
Harris, 645 F.2d 122, 124 (2d Cir. 1981); see also Clifton v.
Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1009-10 (10th Cir. 1996); Vincent v.
Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984); Rebeck v.
Barnhart, 317 F. Supp. 2d 1263, 1275 (D.Kan. 2004). Where "the
evidence of record permits [the court] to glean the rationale of
an ALJ's decision, [the ALJ is not required to explain] why he
considered particular evidence unpersuasive or insufficient to
lead him to a conclusion of disability." Mongeur,
722 F.2d at 1040. Moreover, "[a]lthough required to develop the record fully
and fairly, an ALJ is not required to discuss all the evidence
submitted, and [his] failure to cite specific evidence does not
indicate that it was not considered." Craig v. Apfel,
212 F.3d 433, 436 (8th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). In this case, a
careful reading of the ALJ's decision shows that he did, in fact,
consider Dr. Masten's records. (Tr. 14) (citing to the records as
a basis for Lewis's diagnosis). Thus, a conclusion that the ALJ failed to review this doctor's records is
Accordingly, based on the above, the ALJ did not err in
determining that Dr. Meeks' opinion was not entitled to
controlling weight, and did not improperly develop the record.
3. Subjective Complaints
Lewis claims that the ALJ improperly disregarded her subjective
complaints of pain, physical limitations, and other symptoms. The
court recognizes the inherent difficulty in evaluating a
claimant's credibility without actual physical contact. The ALJ
is entitled to evaluate a claimant's credibility and reach an
independent judgment regarding subjective symptoms in light of
the objective medical evidence and other evidence regarding the
true extent of the alleged symptoms. See Mimms,
750 F.2d at 185. This makes the review of an ALJ's credibility assessment
particularly onerous and frequently results in significant
deference to the ALJ. The ALJ must perform a two-step analysis. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1529; see also Crouch v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No.
6:01-CV-0899 LEK/GJD, 2003 WL 22145644, at *10 (N.D.N.Y. Sept.
11, 2003) (citation omitted). First, based upon the objective
medical evidence, the ALJ must determine whether the impairments
"could reasonably be expected to produce the pain*fn17 or
other symptoms alleged. . . ." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(a),
416.929(a); see Crouch, 2003 WL 22145644 at *10. "Second, if
the medical evidence alone establishes the existence of such
impairments, then the ALJ need only evaluate the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of a claimant's symptoms to
determine the extent to which it limits the claimant's capacity
to work." Crouch, 2003 WL 22145644 at *10 (citing
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c), 416.929(c)). Where the alleged symptoms suggest that the impairment is
greater than demonstrated by objective medical evidence, the ALJ
will consider other factors, such as daily activities, the
location, duration, frequency and intensity of symptoms, the
type, effectiveness and side effects of medication, and other
treatment or measures to relieve those symptoms. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(3), 416.929(c)(3); SSR 96-7p. "The reasons for the
credibility finding must be grounded in the evidence and
articulated in the determination or decision." SSR 96-7p.
Accordingly, "[a]n [ALJ] may properly reject [subjective
complaints] after weighing the objective medical evidence in the
record, the claimant's demeanor, and other indicia of
credibility, but must [do so explicitly and] set forth his or her
reasons with sufficient specificity to enable [the courts] to
decide whether the determination is supported by substantial
evidence." Lewis v. Apfel, 62 F. Supp. 2d 648, 651 (N.D.N.Y.
1999) (internal quotation marks, citation omitted); see Brandon
v. Bowen, 666 F. Supp. 604, 608 (S.D.N.Y. 1987).
The court has reviewed Lewis's testimony regarding pain,
symptoms, and limitations and the summary of this testimony in
the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 30-47, 14, 16); see also Pl.'s Br. at
4-6; Def.'s Br. at 3-4. The ALJ found that while Lewis's
impairment might be expected to produce some of the pain and other symptoms alleged, her allegations about the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her condition
were overstated. (Tr. 17). Specifically, the ALJ noted that
Lewis's alleged extreme weakness of grip was contrary to
objective medical findings revealing only a mild limitation in
this regard. In addition, he discredited her claim that she was
unable to curl her hair, citing examination findings by Drs.
Singh and Meeks that she retained essentially full ranges of
motion in her shoulders. Similarly, the ALJ found no support in
the record for Lewis's alleged limitations as to sitting,
standing, and walking.
In addition, the ALJ considered Lewis's testimony that she took
1-2 pills of Darvocet a week, and 4-5 pills of extra strength
Tylenol a day for her pain. He found that this "modest" use of
medication (especially prescription medication) did not support
her allegation of disabling pain of 7-8 on a 1-10 scale. The ALJ
also noted that Lewis had denied taking any medication during her
January 1998 examination by Dr. Singh, which he concluded was
inconsistent with her allegation of disabling pain as of June
1997. Based on the above, the ALJ determined that Lewis's
allegations regarding the frequency and severity of her symptoms
and limitations were not supported by the medical record, not
consistent with the range of daily activities she was capable of, and not fully credible. Upon
review, the ALJ properly articulated his rationale, which is
supported by substantial evidence. See SSR 96-7p. Therefore,
the ALJ properly evaluated and disregarded Lewis's subjective
After careful review of the entire record, and for the reasons
stated, the Commissioner's denial of benefits was based on
substantial evidence and not erroneous as a matter of law.
Accordingly, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.
WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
ORDERED that the decision denying disability benefits is
AFFIRMED; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk serve a copy of this Decision and
Order on the parties.