The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow, United States Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Clide R. Crosby ("Crosby") brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying
Crosby's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") or
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), 423, 1381a. The
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found that Crosby was not
disabled. (A.R. at 10-17.) The Appeals Council denied Crosby's
request for review. (A.R. at 3-4.)
This matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary
judgment. The Court held oral argument on November 29, 1999. The
issues to be decided are whether substantial evidence in the
record supports the ALJ's finding that Crosby was not disabled
and that there were a significant number of jobs in the national
economy that Crosby could perform. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment,
denies Crosby's motion for summary judgment and affirms the ALJ's
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
1. Crosby's Testimony
Crosby appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before
the ALJ on June 20, 1996. (A.R. at 25-60.) Crosby was 37 years
old at the time of the hearing. (A.R. at 30.) Crosby received a
high school diploma and had carpentry training. (A.R. at 30-31.)
Crosby served in the United States Army from 1982 to 1990. (A.R.
at 31). After leaving the Army, Crosby worked for one year with
Nina Enterprises (A.R. at 31-32), and for approximately three
years with R.I. Bussey Company. (A.R. at 32-33.) Crosby's
position at R.I. Bussey required him to be on his feet for
approximately eight hours at a time lifting debris off a conveyer
belt. (A.R. at 50-51.) This required lifting weights as much as
25 pounds, occasionally more, and constant bending and reaching.
(A.R. at 32-33, 35). The position is classified as semiskilled,
medium exertional work. (A.R. at 35.) Crosby stopped working at
R.I. Bussey in 1994. He now supports himself with public aid.
(A.R. at 51.)
Crosby claims he is disabled because he has back and shoulder
pain that prevents him from working. (A.R. at 37.) Crosby claims
he has pain in his lower back and shoulders that comes and goes.
(A.R. at 37, 39.) He has problems sitting and his pain requires
him to sit on an angle with his left leg extended. (A.R. at 44,
46). When in this position he is able to sit for a period of time
but must stand to relieve his pain. (A.R. at 44.) He could
probably stand for a couple of hours at a time, but would still
experience pain. (A.R. at 47.) He could not stand for eight hours
a day. (A.R. at 47.) He walks with a limp. (A.R. at 44-46.) He
can walk several blocks and may even be able to walk a mile if
permitted to stop for breaks. (A.R. at 46.) He can reach and lift
with his hands and arms, although heavy lifting causes pain.
(A.R. at 37-38.) He does not bend because he is scared that he
might further injure himself. (A.R. at 39.) He suffers from
asthma which he treats with an inhaler. (A.R. at 55.)
Crosby takes 600 milligrams of Ibuprofen as needed, up to four
times a day, to relieve his pain. (A.R. at 35.) The Ibuprofen
works and lessens the pain. (A.R. at 36, 52.) He also uses a TNS
unit which provides electrical stimulation and heat to his back.
(A.R. at 36, 52.) He took part in limited physical therapy. (A.R.
at 52.) He has not been prescribed any other medicines for his
injury and does not use any other assistive devices. (A.R. at
A Residual Physical Functional Capacity Assessment was
completed by a state medical agency consultant, Dr. Ernst C.
Bone, on May 18, 1995. (A.R. at 142-149.) Dr. Bone found that
Crosby could occasionally lift up to 20 pounds and could
frequently lift up to 10 pounds. (A.R. at 143.) He further found
that Crosby could stand or walk for about six hours a day and
could sit for about six hours a day. Dr. Bone noted that Crosby
was limited in his posture to only occasional climbing, kneeling,
stooping, crawling, and crouching. (A.R. at 144.) He noted that
Claimant had a "herniated disc shown on MRI 3/95." (A.R. at 143.)
Dr. Bone further found that Crosby was limited in his ability to
reach in all directions. (A.R. at 145.) Crosby, however, was not
limited in his visual acuity or communication skills. (A.R.146.)
Finally, Dr. Bone noted that Crosby should avoid concentrated
exposure to fumes, odors, and other elements effecting his
asthma. (A.R.146.) Dr. Bone commented that his findings
concerning Crosby's limitations and restrictions were not
different from the findings of the Dr. Orfei and other examining
sources. (A.R. at 148.) Claimant contends that the Court should
substitute its medical judgment for that of the doctors arguing
that the MRI report which indicates "extension into the right
neural foramen" (A.R. at 150) means that claimant is disabled.
The Court declines the invitation and instead relies upon the
assessments of Dr. Cheema and Dr. Bone who were aware of the MRI
results in making their findings and conclusions.
II. DECISION OF THE ALJ
The ALJ determined that Crosby was capable of performing a
limited range of sedentary and light work. (A.R. at 16.) The ALJ
found that Crosby was not disabled. (A.R. at 10-17.) The ALJ
discussed the testimony from the hearing, as well as the medical
evidence. (A.R. at 11-15.) The ALJ found that Crosby has the
residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of light
and sedentary physical work, limited to lifting and carrying no
more than twenty pounds, with no direct exposure to environmental
irritants. (A.R. at 16.) The ALJ further found that although
Crosby is unable to return to his former employment (A.R. at 10),
he is capable of making an adjustment to work which exists in
significant numbers in the economy. (A.R. at 10,16.)
III. DECISION OF THE APPEALS COUNCIL
Crosby's request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by
the Appeal's Council (A.R. at 3.) The Appeals Council found no
basis for changing the ALJ's decision. (A.R. at 3.)
IV. STANDARD OF JUDICIAL REVIEW OF COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is
governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) which provides that "the findings
of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." An ALJ's
decision becomes the Commissioner's final decision if the Appeals
Council denies a request for review. Wolfe v. Shalala,
997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993). When the Appeals Council denies a
request to review a case, the decision reviewed by the district
court is the decision of the ALJ. Eads v. Secretary of the Dept.
of Health and Human Servs., 983 F.2d 815, 817 (7th Cir. 1993).
The correctness of the ALJ's decision rests on the evidence that
was part of the record as existed when that decision was made.
A reviewing court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Delgado v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 79, 82 (7th Cir.
1986). The ALJ has the duty to resolve material conflicts and
make independent findings of fact. Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 399-400, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1426, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).
Judicial review is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards in reaching a decision and whether
there is substantial evidence in the record to support the
findings. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Scivally v. Sullivan,
966 F.2d 1070, 1075 (7th Cir. 1992). Substantial evidence is
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to
support a conclusion." Perales, 402 U.S. at 401, 91 S.Ct. at
1427. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if his findings and
inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence may also support
the Claimant's argument. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Pope v.
Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 480 (7th Cir. 1993). The court may
reverse the Commissioner's decision only if the evidence
"compels" reversal, not merely because the evidence supports a
contrary decision. INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481,
112 S.Ct. 812, 815 n. 1, 117 L.Ed.2d 38 (1992). Finally, a
credibility determination made by the ALJ will not be disturbed
unless it is patently wrong. Brewer v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384,
1392 (7th Cir. 1997). Finally, the court must determine whether
the ALJ fulfilled his duty "to develop the record fully and
fairly." Dugan v. Sullivan, 957 F.2d 1384, 1390 (7th Cir.
In the present case, the ALJ decision stands as the
Commissioner's final decision because the Appeals Council denied
Crosby's request for review. (R. at 3.) This Court reviews the
ALJ's decision based on the evidence that was before the ALJ.
See Eads, 983 F.2d at 817.
V. ESTABLISHING A DISABILITY
Establishing a disability under the Social Security Act is a
First, the plaintiff must suffer from a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment, or a combination of impairments
with 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. § 1382(c)(a)(3)(A). Second, there must be a
factual determination that the impairment renders the plaintiff
unable to engage in any substantial gainful employment. McNeil
v. Califano, 614 F.2d 142, 143 (7th Cir. 1980). That factual
determination is made by using a five-step process. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.920.
The five-step process asks the following questions: (1) is the
Claimant presently unemployed; (2) is the Claimant's impairment
"severe"; (3) does the impairment meet or equal one of the list
of specified impairments (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1); (4) is the Claimant unable to perform his past relevant work;
and (5) does the Claimant's age, education, and past work
experience, in reference to the residual functional capacity,
preclude him from doing other work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b)-(f).
An affirmative answer at any step leads to either to the next
step, or at the third and fifth step, to a finding that the
Claimant is disabled. Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 1984). Other than at step three, a negative answer
leads to a determination that the Claimant is not disabled. Id.
The Claimant has the burden of production and persuasion on steps
one through four. Tom v. Heckler, 779 F.2d 1250, 1253 (7th Cir.
1985); Halvorsen v. Heckler, 743 F.2d 1221, 1225 (7th Cir.
1984). However, if the Claimant shows that his impairment is so
severe that he is unable to engage in his past relevant work,
then the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to establish
that the Claimant — in light of his age, education, job
experience and functional capacity to work — is capable of
performing other work and that such work exists in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). Brewer
v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384, 1391 (7th Cir. 1997).
VI. THE ALJ'S DECISION WAS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE IN
The Court finds substantial evidence in the record to support
the ALJ's conclusion that Crosby was not disabled. Using the
five-step process, the ALJ found that at the time of the hearing:
(1) Crosby was unemployed; (2) Crosby had degenerative disc
disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; (3) Crosby's
impairments did not meet or equal any of the listing of specified
impairments; (4) Crosby was unable to perform his past relevant
work; and (5) Crosby could perform a limited range of light and
sedentary work and that Crosby was capable of making an
adjustment to work which exists in significant numbers.
Crosby challenges the ALJ's decision on both legal and factual
grounds. Crosby argues that the ALJ failed to develop a full
record and ignored favorable evidence. The Court finds that the
ALJ appropriately evaluated the medical evidence in the record,
giving proper weight to all available evidence. Furthermore,
Crosby argues that the ALJ's treatment of the residual functional
assessments was inaccurate. The Court finds that the ALJ gave
appropriate weight to the evidence and did not ignore evidence
that supports an opposite conclusion. Finally, Crosby argues that
the ALJ erred at step five in his determination that Crosby could
successfully perform relevant jobs in the economy. The Court
finds that the ALJ properly applied the testimony of the
Vocational Expert and that the testimony supported the ALJ's
A. Substantial Evidence Support's the ALJ's Residual
Functional Capacity and Credibility Findings.
1. The ALJ Gave Appropriate Weight to Dr. Orfei's Medical
Dr. Orfei's examination and subsequent assessment provide
to support the ALJ's decision. Dr. Orfei saw Crosby on January
27, 1995 and again on February 22, 1995. Upon the first
examination, Crosby was treated for lower back pain, evidenced by
x-rays which demonstrated degeneration of discs at L3-4. At the
time of Crosby's release from the hospital, Dr. Orfei limited
Crosby from lifting no more than ten pounds pending the results
of an MRI. Three weeks later, on February 22, 1995, Dr. Orfei
evaluated Crosby again. At that time Dr. Orfei limited Crosby to
lifting no more than 50 pounds pending the results of a scheduled
First, Crosby wrongly contends that the ALJ "seized upon a
section" of Dr. Orfei's report to support the conclusion that
Crosby could perform a limited range of light or sedentary work.
Crosby mischaracterizes the ALJ's decision by quoting the ALJ's
decision out of context. The ALJ stated that, "His treating
physician stated the Claimant could lift up to 50 pounds." (A.R.
at 14.) Yet, it is clear from the ALJ's decision that the ALJ did
not adopt this fifty pound limitation when evaluating Crosby's
ability to work. Indeed, the residual functional capacity finding
restricted Crosby to a limited range of light and sedentary work.
(A.R. at 14, 16.) If the ALJ had blindly accepted the fifty pound
restriction, the ALJ would have limited the Plaintiff to medium
work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567, 416.967. It is clear that the
ALJ did not find that Crosby could lift up to 50 pounds. The
residual functional capacity finding incorporated a restriction
to limited light and sedentary work. "Although the Claimant is
unable to perform the full range of light or sedentary work, he
is capable of making an adjustment to work which exists in
significant numbers in the national economy." (A.R. at 16.)
Second, although the record does not provide any post-MRI
evaluation of Crosby by Dr. Orfei, there is substantial medical
evidence, taking into account the results of the MRI, to support
the ALJ's findings. Indeed, the ALJ directly addressed the MRI of
March 15, 1995. (A.R. at 13.) The ALJ specifically noted that the
MRI reveals disc degeneration at L3-4, an anterior disc bulge at
the same level, as well as central and bilateral disc herniation.
(A.R. at 13.) In addition, the ALJ also addressed the consulting
physician's report of Dr. Cheema of April 28, 1995 which took
into account the results of the MRI. (A.R. at 13.) Thus, the ALJ
did not rely on incomplete medical reports to support his
decision as suggested by Crosby.
Finally, the use of Dr. Orfei's reports, the findings of the
MRI, and Dr. Cheema's evaluation does not demonstrate a "result
oriented decision" that requires reversal. On the contrary, the
decision made by ALJ was supported by substantial evidence. A
remand to resolve the alleged "mistake" of Dr. Orfei would serve
no purpose. Indeed, no principle of administrative law or common
sense requires the Court to remand a case where there is no
reason to believe that the remand would lead to a different
result. See Fisher v. Bowen, 869 F.2d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir.
2. The ALJ Relied on Objective Medical Evidence to Support the
Residual Functional Capacity Findings.
The ALJ sufficiently discussed the medical evidence in reaching
his conclusions regarding Crosby's limitations. The ALJ reviewed
the reports of Dr. Orfei, Dr. Cheema, and the underlying medical
findings. (A.R. at 11-15.) Crosby's assertion that the ALJ did
not provide reasoning for his determination is misplaced. Rather,
the ALJ fully and accurately discussed the medical reports and
the medical evidence supporting those reports. Thus, the ALJ
articulated his analysis of the evidence sufficiently to allow
this Court to "trace the path of his reasoning." Diaz v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995).
Crosby contends that the ALJ did not give sufficient weight to
the MRI findings and that he failed to fully discuss Dr. Cheema's
clinical findings. This contention is misplaced. The ALJ must
weigh the available evidence. Lauer v. Apfel,
169 F.3d 489, 494 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court finds that the ALJ
appropriately evaluated all the evidence regarding Crosby's
impairment. Although Crosby characterizes the ALJ's evaluation of
the MRI as an "anticlimactic conclusion" to the review of the
medical evidence, this does not dictate a finding that the ALJ
ignored a line of evidence supporting an opposite conclusion.
Taylor v. Schweiker, 739 F.2d 1240, 1243 (7th Cir. 1984).
Rather, the objective medical records support the ALJ's
assessment of Crosby's credibility and residual functional
capacity. The ALJ rejected Crosby's claim of intractable pain
based on the objective medical evidence in his determination of
Crosby's residual functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.(e).
Further, the determination of Crosby's RFC is a legal decision
rather than a medical one. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527.(e)(2),
416.927(e)(2). The ALJ accommodated Crosby's allegations to the
extent that they were supported by the record as a whole and such
a finding is entitled to substantial deference and will not be
disturbed unless patently wrong. Herron v. Shalala,
19 F.3d 329, 335 (7th Cir. 1994).
B. Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ's Finding that a
Significant Number of Jobs Available for an Individual with
There is substantial evidence to support the ALJ's findings
that there are a significant number of jobs in the national
economy for which Crosby is qualified. Based on the residual
capacity assessment predicated upon Dr. Orfei's examinations, Dr.
Cheema's evaluations, and Crosby's age and educational level, the
VE, Dr. William G. Fisher, found that Crosby had transferable
skills and identified approximately 25,000 jobs which Claimant
was capable of performing. These jobs include cashier (7,000), a
surveillance system monitor (5,000), a machine operator (7,000),
or as an entrance attendant or gate guard (6,000), all of which
fall within the range of light to sedentary exertion level work.
(A.R. at 54-59.) In this assessment the ALJ expressly required
the VE to take into account specific limitations particular to
Crosby's residual functional capacity. (A.R. at 54.) Based on the
VE's testimony, the ALJ found that there were a significant
number of jobs available to Crosby. (A.R. at 15.) Even if this
number was somewhat overstated, it clearly constitutes a
significant number as a matter of law. Lee v. Sullivan,
, 794 (7th Cir. 1993). (1,400 job positions are a
for the foregoing reasons, the Commissioner's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED, Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment is DENIED, and the decision of the ALJ dated November 1,
1996 is affirmed.