moderately decreased tolerances for crouching, squatting, and
climbing stairs and ladders. Id. The evaluation went on to recommend
proper use of body mechanics when stooping or twisting. (R. 137).
Finally, the report indicated that Schumacher had complained of moderate
back pain during the evaluation, and that these complaints were
consistent with the pain mannerisms observed by the evaluators. Id.
The second evaluation was performed by Dr. William Conroy on September
23, 1998. (R. 146-153). Dr. Conroy found that Schumacher could lift up to
50 lbs. occasionally, and 25 lbs. frequently. (R. 147). He further found
that Schumacher could sit, stand, or walk for a total of about six hours
in an eight-hour workday. Id.
In addition, two Disability Determination and Transmittal forms were
completed at the behest of the Social Security Administration, the first
was by Dr. William Conroy on October 8, 1998 (R. 27), and the second by
Dr. Victoria S. Dow on November 13, 1998. (R. 28). Both physicians
concluded that Schumacher was not disabled through the date of
determination. (R. 27, 28).
Lastly, on July 22, 1998, Schumacher completed a Disability Report (R.
66-71). in which he complained of arthritis, lower back pain, a bone spur
and a cyst.*fn1 (R. 66). He reported specifically that he "could not do
normal job." Id.
3. Administrative Hearing Testimony.
After the Social Security Administration twice denied benefits, an
administrative hearing was held before ALJ Michael McGuire. (R.
186-202). There, Schumacher testified that he was kept from working due
to lower back pain which was constantly present in moderation, but became
severe after engaging in strenuous activity or heavy lifting. (R.
195-97). For instance, he had recently spent four hours hauling wood to
his house and had thereby aggravated his back. (R. 196). He further
testified that he could lift 40 to 50 lbs. on good days — meaning
about 20 days in a month — but only 20 to 30 lbs. on bad days. (R.
Schumacher further testified that all of his other problems had been
resolved, particularly the period of anxiety and depression he had
recently experienced and his bout with alcoholism. (R. 198). He ascribed
his depression to the fact that he was feeling lonely, and to problems
coping with the aging process and his newfound limitations in life. (R.
198, 200-01). He specifically mentioned that he had tried to commit
suicide on April 4, 1998, and experienced an anxiety attack on May 28,
1998. (R. 200-01). However, with the help of neighborhood friends and a
local church, he had been able to conquer his demons. (R. 198).
Finally, Schumacher testified that American Airlines had recently
instituted permanent medical restrictions on him, and was in the process
of finding a new position for him within those restrictions.*fn2 (R.
199-200). He expressed confidence and enthusiasm at the prospect of
returning to work. Id.
In summary, the record contains numerous medical assessments that,
although suffering an impairment which prevents him from performing the
heavy lifting of his former position, Schumacher is still able to perform
light to medium level
work. On the other hand, there is not a single
medical report that stated he was unable to perform substantial gainful
work of any kind. Moreover, his testimony at the hearing was
substantially consistent with the medical record. Indeed, after
describing the limitations that his lower back pain imposes on him, he
went on to describe with confidence and enthusiasm his plans to return to
work for American Airlines in a light to medium level work position. The
ALJ's determination that Claimant can engage in light to medium level
work should therefore stand.
C. THE ALJ ADEQUATELY DEVELOPED THE RECORD AS TO THE CLOSED PERIOD FROM
AUGUST 17, 1997, TO AUGUST 17, 1998.
Contrary to Claimant's contention that the ALJ did not consider the
possibility of a closed period of disability, the ALJ made a specific
finding that "[t]he claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, at any time through the date of this
decision." (R. 20). This finding was supported by substantial evidence in
the medical record. In finding that Schumacher had sufficient RFC to
engage in medium level work, the ALJ specifically cited to the Arthritic
Report of Dr. McDonnell. (R. 16). That report, which was based on the
physician's April 28, 1998, examination of Claimant (R. 90), concluded
that Schumacher retained the ability to work. (R. 91). Other evidence in
the record includes the report of Dr. Nelson, who concluded that
Schumacher retained the ability to perform light or medium level work
after the orthopedic evaluation he conducted on October 7, 1997. (R. 83,
84). In addition, Dr. McDonnell filed reports on Schumacher's condition
on January 29, 1998, and March 12, 1998, both of which indicated that
Schumacher was able to perform at least some kinds of work. (R. 97,
106). Finally, Schumacher was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in
L1 and L2 and discogenic low back pain syndrome by Dr. Nelson on October
7, 1997. (R. 83). Similarly, Dr. Moiduddin diagnosed Schumacher with
chronic low back pain syndrome and degenerative joint disease in L1 and
L2 on September 9, 1998. (R. 133). This clearly supports the inference
that Schumacher's underlying physical ailment had not changed over time.
This case is clearly distinguishable from Brown v. Massanari,
167 F. Supp. 1015 (N.D. Ill. 2001). In that case, the reviewing district
court reversed and remanded because the ALJ had not sufficiently
considered whether to provide DIB for a closed period. Id. at 1021. The
claimant in that case suffered back and leg injuries in an automobile
accident which required rehabilitative surgery and a prolonged period of
recuperation. Id. at 1018. The court found that the ALJ had relied almost
exclusively on the report of a physician whose examination had taken
place after the claimant's recuperation, thereby failing to fully consider
evidence that the claimant's condition had changed significantly
overtime. Id. at 1020-21. As a result, the court found that the ALJ's
decision to deny DIB was not supported by substantial evidence. Id. at
1020. In the present case, there is substantial evidence from Claimant's
treating physician to support a finding that the Claimant's back
problem, although intermittent in nature, has not materially changed over
time. The contemporaneous evaluations of Claimant's treating physician
fully support the ALJ's conclusion.
D. THE ALJ ADEQUATELY DEVELOPED THE RECORD CONCERNING THE PLAINTIFF'S
ALLEGED AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Claimant also argues that the ALJ failed to adequately develop the