of all joints. Id. Her dexterity in her right dominant
hand was normal with no problems picking up small objects from the
table, or buttoning or unbuttoning. Id. Claimant had normal hand grip and
normal gait, and she was neurologically intact. R. 266-67. Claimant's
chest x-ray revealed bilateral interstitial infiltrates in her lower
lungs, but no evidence of hilar congestion or poor distribution of flow.
R. 267. He noted that Claimant was recently diagnosed with sarcoidosis,
but noted that steroid therapy had provided "significant relief." Id.
In April and June 1998, state agency physicians reviewed the medical
evidence, considered Claimant's sarcoidosis and arthritis, and concluded
that she could lift 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently,
sit, stand, and walk for six hours each in an eight-hour workday, and
could push and pull without limitation. R. 301-07. Claimant could
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, and needed
to avoid moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor
ventilation. R. 302-04.
In July 1998, Claimant underwent nerve and EMG studies of her right
hand for complaints of numbness and pain. R. 184. She denied any weakness
or abnormal sensation, and physical examination revealed intact sensation
and normal strength and reflexes. R. 184. Dr. Wannapha Petchkrua
indicated that testing suggested evidence of right carpal tunnel
syndrome, but no evidence of peripheral neuropatby. R. 185, 325-26.
In August 1998, Claimant was seen in follow-up for her complaints of
numbness in her palms. R. 353. Physical examination revealed no edema and
full range of motion in her extremities, mild plantar tenderness
bilaterally and reported numbness in her right palm. R. 353.
In March 1999, Dr. Patricia R. Bush reviewed the medical evidence and
noted Claimant's history of sarcoidosis. R. 367. Dr. Bush concluded that
the medical evidence in the file supports the residual functional
capacity assessment for light work as indicated by the state agency
reviewing physicians. Id.
Dr. Michael Colandrea reviewed the medical evidence and concluded
Claimant had a severe impairment that did not meet a listing. R. 368. He
indicated Claimant could lift 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently, and sit, stand and walk for six hours each with no limitation
in pushing and pulling. R. 370. He concluded that she could perform light
work. It 369-76.
E. VOCATIONAL EXPERT TESTIMONY
The ALJ asked the Vocational Expert, William Schweitz, a hypothetical
question regarding the existence of jobs available to a person of
Claimant's age, education and experience who could perform light work,
but could not do more than occasional climbing, balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crawling or crouching, and could not work at a job involving
even moderate exposure to pulmonary initants. R. 64. The VE testified
that there would be a wide range of jobs such a person could perform
including: packaging jobs involving electronic parts, assembly, and
visual inspection. It 65-66. In total, the VE indicated that such a total
of 35,000 to 40,000 unskilled jobs would be available. It 66-67.
V. LEGAL ANALYSIS
A. THERE IS SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE IN THE RECORD TO SUPPORT THE ALJ'S
CONCLUSION THAT CLAIMANT WAS NOT DISABLED BECAUSE SHE COULD PERFORM
There is substantial medical evidence to support the ALJ's conclusion
Claimant was not disabled because she retained the residual
functional capacity to perform a range of light work. The ALJ's RFC
assessment was directly supported by the Medical Expert, Dr. Buckingham,
a pulmonologist who treats sarcoidosis, as well as Drs. Conroy, Bush and
Colandrea, who each found that Claimant could perform a range of light
work. R. 16-17, 60-61, 300-01, 367, 370. Claimant presented no contrary
opinions from any physician.
B. THE ALJ'S CREDIBILITY FINDING WAS PROPERLY EXPLAINED
In the face of this overwhelming medical evidence, Claimant requests
this Court to reverse and remand the ALJ's decision based on the ALJ's
credibility finding which the Claimant contends does not comport with
Social Security Ruling 96-7p and the Seventh Circuit decision in Zurawski
v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001).
1. SSR 96-7p
SSR 96-7p is a policy interpretation ruling which became effective on
July 2, 1996. It addresses the ALJ's responsibility in making a
credibility finding regarding a claimant's statements about pain or other
symptoms and its functional effects. In particular, this policy
interpretation ruling makes clear that:
5. It is not sufficient for the adjudicator to make a
single, conclusory statement that "the individual's
allegations have been considered" or that "the
allegations are (or are not) credible."
SSR 96-7p requires the ALJ to consider the claimant's "statements about
symptoms with the rest of the relevant evidence in the case record" and
to consider the entire case record, including objective medical
evidence, and other relevant evidence in coming to a credibility
determination. SSR 96-7p ¶ 1-4. This SSR essentially requires an ALJ
to "build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to his
conclusion." Cliford v. Apfel,