United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 23, 2004.
GORDON L. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Gordon Harris ("Harris" or "plaintiff"), has brought
a motion for summary judgment seeking judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration ("Commissioner" or "defendant"), who denied
Harris' claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security
Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), 423(d) (2000). Harris now
appeals that decision in federal court as permitted by Section
405(g) and Section 1383(c)(3). Defendant, Barnhart, filed a cross
motion for summary judgment asking that we uphold the decision of
the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). For the following reasons,
we deny plaintiff's motion and grant defendant's motion,
affirming the decision of the ALJ.
Harris filed an application for DIB and SSI on January 10,
1995, alleging disability since January 15, 1993. (R. 29-32).
Harris' application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (R. 33-38, 41-44). On January 15, 1997, ALJ
Maren Dougherty conducted a hearing. Harris, Carnell Green, his
brother, and Meyer Klein, a Vocational Expert ("VE"), testified. (R. 184-235). At the
conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ ordered Harris to see an
orthopedist to evaluate his wrist and to have current x-rays
taken. She ordered the record kept open for 30 days to allow for
the additional medical examination and x-rays, and to allow the
VE and plaintiff's counsel to supplement the record. On March 25,
1999, after receiving and reviewing all of the supplemental
information, the ALJ issued an opinion denying Harris' claim. (R.
9-16). The ALJ found that Harris was capable of performing his
past relevant job as a security guard, as generally performed in
the economy, and, therefore, was not disabled. (R. 16). On June
16, 2001, the Appeals Council denied Harris' request for review.
(R. 3-4). Consequently, the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner. See Zurawski v. Halter,
245 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001); Reg. § 416.1481.
On January 15, 1993, Harris was admitted to the Emergency Room
at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Illinois after falling
approximately eight feet from a ladder at work. (R. 63). He tried
to break the fall with his left hand and landed on his head and
back. (R. 63). Harris' x-rays revealed anterior compressions of
his L-1, T-11, and T-12 vertebrae, a small minimally displaced
fracture of the right facet of his T-12 vertebrae, and a
non-displaced fracture of the right side of his L-1 vertebra. (R.
64, 67-68). Harris also fractured his left wrist in two places.
(R. 66). A June 3 MRI of Harris' lumbar spine indicated wedge
deformity of Harris' T-11, T-12, and L-1 vertebrae. However,
there was no evidence of disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or
spinal canal narrowing. (R. 98).
Sometime after January 14, 1994, Thomas W. McNeill, M.D.,
Harris' treating physician, opined that Harris would not be able
to return to his job as an ironworker without certain restrictions. (R. 73). Dr. McNeill determined
that Harris could only preform medium level work as defined by
"Workers' Rehabilitation Services Incorporated in Chicago on
their work capacity evaluation." (R. 73). Dr. McNeill suspected
Harris' situation was permanent. (R. 73).
On January 23, 1995, at the request of the Illinois Department
of Public Aid, G. Bridgeforth, M.D. examined Harris. (R. 74). Dr.
Bridgeforth reported that Harris had poor posture, was mildly
obese, and that his reflexes were difficult to elicit. (R. 76).
Dr. Bridgeforth opined that Harris had a full capacity for
walking, bending, standing, stooping, sitting, turning, climbing
and pushing in an 8-hour work day. (R. 77). Dr. Bridgeforth also
determined that Harris could repeatedly lift up to 50 pounds
during an 8-hour work day. (R. 77).
On April 10, 1995, Muhammad Irshad, M.D., a non-examining State
Agency physician, completed a Residual Functional Capacity
("RFC") assessment for Harris. (R. 78-85). Dr. Irshad concluded
that Harris could occasionally lift and/or carry 50 pounds,
frequently lift and/or carry 25 pounds, stand and/or walk about 6
hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday. (R. 79). Additionally, Dr. Irshad opined that Harris was
unlimited in his ability to push and/or pull with his
extremities. (R. 79).
On December 21, 1996, Kevin J. Regan, D.C., a
chiropractor/acupuncturist examined Harris at the request of his
attorney. (R. 99). The chiropractor noted that Harris' lower
lumbar paraspinal musculature was very tender and spastic. (R.
99). The flexor and extensor surfaces of Harris' left wrist were
very tender, and Harris' left hand grip was weaker than his
right. (R. 99). Mr. Regan reported that a positive Phalen's test reproduced pains from the wrist to all Harris' left finger
tips and Harris had hyproasthesia of the dorsal and palmar
surfaces of his left hand (R. 99). Mr. Regan noted that Harris'
lumbar flexion and extension were reduced by 75% of their normal
ranges, and lumber rotation and lateral flexion were reduced by
50% of their ranges of motion. (R. 99). A positive Kemp's test
produced pain down into Harris' lumbar spine. (R. 99). The
chiropractor diagnosed Harris with chronic left wrist carpal
tunnel syndrome secondary to trauma, chronic degeneration of the
anterior lumbar disc/vertebral bodies, and myofascial pain
syndrome secondary to trauma. (R. 99).
A partial, unsigned RFC questionnaire, attributed to Mr. Regan
by the ALJ, noted that Harris could only sit or stand
continuously for 10 minutes and sit, stand, or walk less than 2
hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 102). The questionnaire reported
that Harris must walk around every 10 minutes for 5 minutes, must
take 15 minute breaks every 30 minutes, and elevate his legs 100%
of the time. (R. 103). The RFC also stated that Harris could only
lift less than 10 pounds occasionally and could only use his
right hand for repetitive actions 33% of an 8-hour workday. (R.
Harris saw Arthur Jones, M.D. twice in 1996 for complaints of
chest pain. (R. 118-24). Harris was able to exercise to 8 METS
and reached 95% of his predicted maximum heart rate, (R. 121).
His EKG and thallium scan were normal. (R. 121-22). Lab tests
indicated that Harris had high glucose and cholesterol levels,
and high blood pressure. (R. 118-20). On January 2, 1997, Dr.
Jones completed a RFC questionnaire for Harris. (R. 104-07). Dr.
Jones opined that Harris could only continuously sit or stand for
20 minutes at one time, sit for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and
stand and/or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 105).
Additionally, Dr. Jones noted that Harris could only occasionally lift less than 10 pounds. (R.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ ordered that Harris
submit to another examination. On April 3, 1997, Leonard R.
Smith, M.D., S.C., examined Harris. (R. 125). Dr. Smith observed
a localized mild kyphos at Harris' L-1 vertebra, and subjective
tenderness from the T-12 to L-1 vertebrae, but no scars, atrophy,
or swelling. (R. 125). Harris' forward flexion was limited to 10
degrees, his extension was limited to 5 degrees, his lateral
flexion was limited to 5 degrees, and his iliolumbar torsional
motion was limited to 45 degrees. (R. 125-26). Dr. Smith noted
thickening of Harris' left wrist, and subjective tenderness in
the dorsum of the radius. (R. 126). Harris had no loss of
sensation. (R. 126). After reviewing multiple x-rays from 1993,
Dr. Smith determined that Harris' lumbar spine revealed healed
compression fractures of his T-11, T-12, and L-1 vertebrae, and
an increased kyphosis at his T-12 through L-1 vertebrae. (R.
126). X-rays of Harris' left wrist revealed healed fractures of
the radius and navicular bones. (R. 127). According to Dr.
Smith's RFC assessment, Harris could occasionally lift 25 to 30
pounds and frequently lift 20 pounds. (R. 128). Dr. Smith opined
that Harris could sit for 2 to 3 hours at a time for a total of 6
hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 129).
Thereafter, Harris was evaluated by Irwin I. Feinberg, M.D., at
the request of his attorney. (R. 135). Dr. Feinberg noted that
there was no atrophy of Harris' shoulder/arm musculature, but
Harris' range of motion in his left hand was diminished. (R.
135). Dr. Feinberg opined that Harris probably had a tear of the
radial ulnar cartilage and a tear in the radio scapholunate
joint. (R. 135). Additionally, Dr. Feinberg noted that Harris had
chronic pain in the dorsal lumbar area and in the low back area
because of osteoarthritis. (R. 135). Dr. Feinberg concluded that
Harris would not be able to return to his previous job as an ironworker and would
have difficulty obtaining employment in an occupation where he
has to use his hands. (R. 135).
At the time of the ALJ's hearing, Harris was 49 years-old and
had an eighth grade education. (R. 190). He testified that as a
result of his 1993 fall, he filed a worker's compensation claim,
which settled for $27,000. (R. 206). Harris also stated that he
is right handed*fn1 and thinks he could lift up to 20 or 25
pounds. (R. 220).
Harris testified that he has not worked since January 15, 1993.
(R. 207). Harris' last job was for about three months as an iron
worker, where he took down steel columns and beams. (R. 191).
That job required him to lift up to 100 or 150 pounds, and he was
not able to sit. (R. 191). Prior to that, Harris worked as a
security guard for a year and a half. (R. 192-93). That job
required him to sit two thirds of the time, and walk the other
one third of the workday. (R. 192). It also entailed lifting 50
to 60 pound cartons and 30 to 40 pound baskets. (R. 208). Harris
did not carry a gun and received about two weeks of on the job
training. (R. 225).
Harris also drove a truck for four years. (R. 193-94). That job
required lifting up to 100 pounds. (R. 194). His final relevant
employment was as a laborer in construction, which included
lifting 90 to 100 pound bags of concrete and standing constantly.
At the hearing, Harris complained of sharp, throbbing pain in
his lower back. (R. 199). He testified that he was taking four to
six lbuprofen a day, whenever his pain got severe, but he was not taking any prescription pain medication.
(R. 199, 211-12). Harris also stated that his left wrist was
painful and stiff all of the time. (R. 1999). He testified that
he could not lift with his left wrist and could only walk about a
block and a half at a time because after that his back would
tighten up and hurt. (R. 199-00). Harris stated that he could
only stand for 20 minutes at a time because he has to shift
positions to relieve tension in his back, and he is most
comfortable when lying down. (R. 200).
Harris' daily activities include taking his grandchildren to
school, cooking, dusting, and washing clothes and dishes. (R.
201, 217). Harris was able to drive for an hour and a half
straight through to the hearing. (R. 206). Harris testified that
he was able to lift a gallon of milk with his left hand, but it
would aggravate his pain. (R. 215). However, he could lift a
glass of water or a light pot with his left hand without any
pain. (R. 215). According to Harris, he cannot hunt, fish, sweep,
shovel snow, or work on cars. (R. 217).
Carnell Green ("Green"), Harris' brother, testified at the
hearing on his behalf. (R. 221). Green stated that he visits
Harris almost every day for about 3 hours. (R. 221-22). He helps
Harris with projects such as repairing Harris' roof and servicing
Harris' car. (R. 222). Green testified that Harris complains
about his pain all the time. He also believes that Harris is not
as outgoing as he used to be. (R. 223). Vocational Expert's Testimony
VE, Meyer Klein, also testified. (R. 224). The VE classified
Harris' job as an iron worker as unskilled, very heavy work. (R.
225). He classified the security position as generally considered
unskilled, light work, but found that Harris' specific job would
probably be considered medium work because it periodically
required carrying boxes. (R. 225). The VE classified driving a
truck as semi-skilled, heavy work, and classified the
construction job as unskilled, heavy work. (R. 226).
At the hearing, ALJ Dougherty posed four hypotheticals to the
VE. First, the ALJ inquired as to whether there were any jobs
that someone of Harris' age, education, and work experience could
perform if he could lift up to 50 pounds occasionally and 25
pounds frequently, stand and walk for six hours out of an eight
hour workday, and could not use his non-dominant hand for
twisting motions. (R. 226). The VE testified that such a person
could not be employed as a laborer, truck driver, packing worker,
or assembly worker because those jobs would require the use of
both hands and the ability to make a twisting motion. (R. 226).
However, the VE concluded that such a person could possibly work
in security, and that approximately 11,000 such jobs were
available in the Chicago-land area. (R. 226-27). The VE testified
that these security jobs would be considered light work. (R.
The ALJ modified the hypothetical twice, inquiring about what
effect, if any, not being able to lift more than eight pounds
with his left hand and not being able to use his hands for
constant or repetitive fingering or gripping would have on the
number of jobs available to Harris. (R. 227). The VE testified
that neither of these two conditions would appreciably affect the
number of available jobs. (R. 227). The final hypothetical included a required sit/stand option.
(R. 228). Under this restriction, the VE concluded that such a
person could work as a surveillance monitor. The VE stated that
approximately 5,000 of these jobs were available in the economy.
(R. 228). The VE testified that such a job would require a person
to stay in one position for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. (R. 228).
The VE also stated if a person had to change positions every 20
minutes, that would be "appreciable" in their ability to perform
the job. (R. 228). The VE testified that, in his opinion, a
security monitor position is unskilled, light work. (R. 227,
Standard of Review
We must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is supported by
substantial evidence and free from legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence and is
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300,
305 (7th Cir. 1995) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The ALJ need not weigh every piece of evidence,
however, when the Commissioner's "decision lacks evidentiary
support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful
review, the case must be remanded." Steele, 290 F.3d at 940.
Generally, we cannot substitute our judgment for that of the ALJ
by deciding facts anew, reweighing the evidence, resolving
conflicts in evidence, or deciding questions of credibility.
Estok v. Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998). However, if
there is an error of law, "reversal is required without regard to
the volume of the evidence in support of the factual findings."
Imani v. Heckler, 797 F.2d 508, 510 (7th Cir. 1986). Analysis
A person is disabled under the Act if he or she has an
"inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which 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
twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In determining whether
a claimant is disabled, the ALJ conducts a five step analysis:
(1) whether the claimant is presently unemployed, (2) whether the
claimant's impairment is severe, (3) whether the impairment meets
or exceeds any of the specific impairments listed in the
regulation, (4) whether the claimant is unable to perform his or
her previous occupation and (5) whether the claimant is unable to
perform any other work in the national economy given his or her
age, education, or work experience. Cichon v. Barnhart,
222 F. Supp.2d 1019, 1025 (N.D. Ill. 2002) (citing
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a) (f)). Affirmative answers at steps three and five
will lead to a finding that the claimant is disabled. Zalewski
v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 160, 162 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1985). A negative
answer at any step, other than three, will result in a finding
that the claimant is not disabled. Id. The claimant carries the
burden of proof for steps one through four. Clifford v. Apfel,
227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000). If the analysis reaches step
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that there
are other jobs in the economy that plaintiff is capable of
Additionally, the ALJ must "build an accurate and logical
bridge from the evidence to her conclusions so that [the Court]
may afford the claimant meaningful review of the [Commissioner's]
ultimate findings." Blakes ex rel. Wolfe v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 565, 569 (7th Cir. 2002). Therefore, the record must contain
evidence to support the ALJ's findings, and the ALJ must
rationally articulate a basis for those findings. Steele, 290
F.3d at 941.
Steps one through three of the ALJ's analysis are not
contested. The ALJ found that Harris was not currently gainfully
employed; suffered from the severe impairments of "back pain
secondary to history of compression fractures at T11, T12 and L1
and left wrist pain secondary to history of fracture;" and did
not have an impairment that met or medically equaled any of the
specific impairments listed in the regulation. At step four, the
ALJ found that despite Harris' impairments, he had the RFC to
perform light work. Specifically, she found that Harris could not
lift "more than 20 pounds occasionally or 10 pounds frequently,"
and that he could not perform "activities that require him to
twist with his left, dominant arm repetitively." (R. 16). The ALJ
did not find that Harris' impairments required a sit/stand option
as part of his RFC. The ALJ concluded that Harris' past relevant
work as a security guard did not require these precluded
activities. Therefore, the ALJ found that Harris could perform
his past relevant work and was not disabled. The ALJ never
reached step five of the analysis.
On appeal, Harris makes a number of arguments to support his
request for a remand of his case to the ALJ for further analysis.
We do not find any of his arguments persuasive. First, Harris
contends that the ALJ's RFC determination is in error and not
supported by substantial evidence. Specifically, Harris argues
that the ALJ's RFC determination is incorrect because it does not
include a sit/stand option or an accommodation for breaks in
concentration due to pain. Plaintiff argues that his allegations of pain and both of those limitations are supported
by the medical evidence in the record. Harris also contends that
the ALJ erred in finding his allegations of pain not credible.
In attacking the ALJ's RFC determination, plaintiff argues that
the ALJ did not give proper weight to the findings of various
doctors. Harris only had one treating physician for the
impairments at issue in this case, Dr. McNeill. Dr. McNeill
opined that plaintiff could perform medium work as determined by
the Worker's Rehabilitation Services Incorporated in Chicago,
which requires lifting up to 50 pounds occasionally. Dr. NcNeill
did not suggest that Harris required a sit/stand option, or that
he needed special accommodations due to breaks in concentration
from pain. The ALJ's RFC determination was more restrictive than
the findings of plaintiff's only treating physician.
Additionally, the ALJ's RFC finding was more restrictive than
the findings of Dr. Bridgeforth, who similarly opined that
plaintiff could perform medium work. The ALJ's RFC was also
consistent with the findings of Drs. Smith, Feinberg and Irshad.
Dr. Smith found that plaintiff could not lift more than 30 pounds
occasionally and 20 pounds frequently, but that he did not
require a sit/stand option. Dr. Feinberg, who examined Harris at
the request of his attorney, opined that plaintiff required
limitations on the use of his hands and only ruled out
plaintiff's past work as an ironworker. Dr. Irshad opined that
plaintiff could occasionally lift 50 pounds and frequently lift
25 pounds, and that he could stand and/or walk about 6 hours in
an 8 hour day. The findings of all three doctors are consistent
with and/or less restrictive than the ALJ's RFC.
The findings that are more restrictive than the ALJ's come from
two non-treating physicians and were properly discredited. Dr.
Jones, a cardiologist, treated plaintiff twice in 1996 for complaints of chest pain. Dr. Jones never
treated Harris for any allegations related to his wrist or back.
Thus, he was not a treating physician for the purposes of Harris'
impairments at issue and his findings are not entitled to
deference or substantial weight. See Scheck v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 697, 702-03 (7th Cir. 2004). Moreover, the ALJ provided an
adequate basis for discrediting Dr. Jones' findings. In his RFC
evaluation, Dr. Jones found that plaintiff required a sit/stand
opinion at work and that he could not sit or stand for more than
ten minutes at a time. He also opined that Harris could not
perform any work for an eight hour day at any exertional level
due to pain in his wrist and back. The ALJ found that these
conclusions were not supported by the medical findings in Jones'
own examination or in the record as a whole. After reviewing the
record we cannot find any fault with the ALJ's determination. The
ALJ properly noted that plaintiff's medical records from Jones
relate to his complaints of chest pain and did not support Jones'
RFC, and that no other records provided to the ALJ supported such
a restrictive RFC.
The ALJ also properly discredited the RFC determinations of the
chiropractor, Mr. Regan. In an unsigned, incomplete RFC
attributed to Mr. Regan, he found that Harris required a
sit/stand option and could not sit or stand for more than ten
minutes. Again, the ALJ properly supported his decision not to
adopt Mr. Ragen's RFC by citing inconsistences between Mr.
Regan's findings and the rest of the record. Mr. Regan found that
Harris needed to elevate his legs all of the time, a limitation
that directly contradicts Harris' testimony at the hearing.
Additionally the ALJ cited Regan's finding that Harris had
limitations on bimanual dexterity, even though he has no
limitations of his right hand For the above stated reasons, the
ALJ's RFC determination was supported by the medical evidence in the record and will not be
Next, plaintiff took issue with the ALJ's credibility
determinations. To succeed on this ground, Harris must overcome
the highly deferential standard that we accord credibility
determinations. Because the ALJ is best positioned to evaluate
the credibility of a witness, we reverse the ALJ's credibility
filing only if it is `patently wrong'. Powers v. Apfel,
207 F.3d 431, 435 (7th Cir. 2000). However, when questioning the
claimant's credibility as to symptoms of pain, the ALJ must
follow the specific requirements set forth in SSR 96-7. First,
the ALJ must determine whether the pain is substantiated by
medical evidence. Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart,
336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). If the pain is not supported by
objective medical evidence, the ALJ evaluates the effects of the
complained-of pain on the individual's functional ability to
work, taking into account the claimant's daily activities; his
past work history and efforts to work; the dosage, effectiveness,
and side effects of medication; the nature and intensity of the
reported pain; medical evidence from treating physicians and
third parties; medical evidence and laboratory findings; and the
course of treatment. Scheck, 357 at 703 (7th Cir. 2004).
The ALJ found that the objective findings in the case failed to
provide support for Harris' allegations of disabling symptoms and
limitations. As stated above, in her opinon, the ALJ outline the
medical evidence in the record and found that it did not support
Harris' complaints of pain. Specifically, the ALJ stated that the
medical records did not contain objective findings of pain on
examination. The ALJ did reference notes from various doctors stating the plaintiff experienced pain and
tenderness in his lumbar area, however he also noted that the
doctors' findings of pain were based on plaintiff's subjective
complaints, not objective findings. Additionally, there were no
signs of atrophy or other evidence of disuse, and no evidence of
reflex loss, save the chiropractor whose opinion the ALJ properly
Having found plaintiff's complaints of pain were not supported
by objective medical evidence, the ALJ analyzed the factors
outlined in SSR 96-7p. The ALJ cited to the fact that Harris had
not received any medical treatment from some time in 1993 until
November, 1996, when he sought treatment for ailments unrelated
to the impairments listed in his application for benefits. Harris
sought treatment in late 1996 for complaints of chest pain, not
complaints related to his wrist or back pain. Apart from the two
visits for chest pain, the only medical treatment plaintiff
received after 1993 was various evaluations conducted in an
effort to assess his disability, either at the request of the SSA
or plaintiff's counsel.
The ALJ also cited to plaintiff's use, or lack there of, of
medication to alleviate pain. To support her credibility finding,
the ALJ cited to plaintiff's testimony that when he overdoes
activity, he takes over the counter medication for relief. The
ALJ concluded that Harris' failure to request prescription pain
medication showed that when he experiences pain, he achieves
significant relief from over the counter pain remedies. Finally
the ALJ evaluated plaintiff's daily activities, finding that they
were consistent with her RFC determination.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ has a duty to further develop the
record regarding explanations for why plaintiff did not seek
further medical treatment and prescription pain medication. We do not agree. The ALJ may presume that had
there been evidence that plaintiff could not afford medical care
or medication, Harris' counsel would have submitted that
evidence. See Glenn v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs.,
814 F.2d 387, 391 (7th Cir. 1987) (ALJ can presume that counseled
claimant is presenting his strongest case); see also Flener ex.
Rel. Flener v. Barnhart, 361 F.3d 442, 448 (7th Cir. 2004)
(although ALJ has duty to develop record, primary responsibility
rests with claimant). Plaintiff never presented evidence about
his inability to afford treatment. At the hearing, plaintiff did
testify that after he settled his workers' compensation case his
medical expenses related to his back injury were no longer
covered and he had reached some medical maximum, but he did not
elaborate or present any further evidence on the issue. The ALJ
even left the record open for a significant period of time after
the hearing, to allow for any additional medical evaluations and
to provide both sides with an opportunity to provide supplemental
evidence. Plaintiff failed to provide any additional information
on this issue and cannot now fault the ALJ.
Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ did not elaborate on his
testimony about the limitations on his daily activities. The ALJ
must articulate support for rejecting entire lines of evidence,
but is not required to provide a written evaluation of every
piece of evidence. Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th
Cir. 1994). The ALJ sufficiently addressed plaintiff's daily
activities.*fn2 Because the ALJ addressed the medical evidence regarding
plaintiff's allegation of pain; his lack of treatment for pain;
the type, dosage and effectiveness of plaintiff's medication and
his daily activities, we find that contrary to plaintiff's
assertions, the ALJ adequately addressed the factors in SSR 96-7.
The ALJ's credibility determination about plaintiff's allegations
of pain is not "patently wrong" and will not be overturned. "No
principle of administrative law or common sense requires us to
remand a case in quest of a perfect opinion unless there is
reason to believe that the remand might lead to a different
result." Fisher v. Brown, 869 F.2d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 1989).
The evidence in the record supports that ALJ's conclusion and the
case will not be remanded.
Testimony of the Vocational Expert
Finally, plaintiff attacks the testimony and findings of the
VE, and alleges errors in the ALJ's step five analysis. In her
opinion, the ALJ never reached step five, therefore, we need not
address plaintiff's arguments as they relate to any possible step
five analytical errors. As stated above, the ALJ's RFC
determination that plaintiff could perform light work and did not
require a sit/stand option or additional accommodations for his
allegations of pain was supported by substantial evidence and not
in err. Therefore, the ALJ's determination that plaintiff could
perform his past relevant work as a security guard, as it is
generally performed in the economy, is also not in err and the
ALJ properly concluded her analysis at step four.
Plaintiff, in passing, appears to argue that because his past
relevant work as a security guard, as he performed it, is medium
work, the ALJ erred in finding that with an RFC limitation of
light work, plaintiff could still perform his past relevant work
as a security guard. This argument is contrary to law. A person is
able to perform his past relevant work at step four, if he can
either perform his actual past relevant job, or perform his
past relevant job as it is normally performed in the economy.
Anderson v. Bowen, 868 F.2d 921, 925 n. 11 (7th Cir. 1989);
see also SSR 82-61 ("a claimant will be found to be `not
disabled' when it is determined that he or she retains the RFC to
perform (1) the actual functional demands and job duties of a
particular past relevant job or (2) the functional demands and
job duties of the occupation as generally required by employers
throughout the national economy."). The VE testified that
plaintiff's past relevant work as a security guard is normally
performed in the economy at the light exertional level.
Therefore, the ALJ's finding that plaintiff could perform work as
a security guard with an RFC limitation of light work is not in
Plaintiff also takes issue with the VE's testimony that a
security guard position, as performed in the national economy,
would be classified as light work. Plaintiff argues that the VE's
testimony conflicted with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles
("DOT") (4th Ed., 1991). However, the ALJ is allowed to accept
the testimony of the VE, without further inquiry, even if it
differs from the DOT, unless the claimant, or the ALJ on
claimant's behalf, notices the conflict and requests
substantiation from the VE. Donahue v. Barnhart, 279 F.3d 441,
446-47 (7th Cir. 2002). Neither the claimant nor the ALJ took
issue with the VE's testimony that plaintiff's past relevant work
as a security guard, as normally performed in the economy, was
light work. The claimant took issue with the VE's testimony
regarding the exertional level of the surveillance monitor
position, requiring the VE to provide a basis and explanation, as
to that position. The VE provided that information and it is part
of the administrative record. However, we need not address the surveillance monitor position
because that information would have been relevant to step five
analysis which the ALJ correctly omitted from her opinion. At
step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform his past
relevant work and, therefore, was not required to address step 5.
To support his argument, plaintiff cites to SSR 00-4p, which
requires the ALJ to inquire into whether any inconsistencies
exist between the VE's testimony and the DOT regardless of
whether anyone raises the issue at the hearing. However, SSR
00-4p is not applicable to this case. The ALJ decided Harris'
claim in 1999, prior to the effective date of SSR 00-4p. See 65
Fed. Reg. 75, 761 (December 4, 2000) ("This Ruling is effective
on the date of its publication in the Federal Register. The
clarified standard stated in this ruling with respect to
inquiring about possible conflicts applies on the effective date
of the ruling to all claims for disability benefits in which a
hearing before an ALJ has not yet been held, or that is pending a
hearing before an ALJ on remand") Consequently, SSR 00-4p does
not apply and Donahue is controlling.
Harris also makes a number of arguments regarding step five
analysis, however, as we stated above, we need not address those
issues because the ALJ correctly omitted step five analysis from
her opinion. Therefore, we decline to comment on plaintiff's
argument that the VE's description of the surveillance system
monitor as light work is inconsistent with the job as described
in the ("DOT") and his arguments regarding the hypotheticals
posed to the VE. Conclusion
For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that the ALJ's
findings at step four are supported by substantial evidence, and
that the ALJ built an accurate and logical bridge between the
record evidence and her conclusion that Harris could perform his
past relevant work as a security guard, as generally performed in
the economy. The Court, therefore, denies Harris' motion for
summary judgment, and grants the Commissioner's. The decision of
the ALJ is affirmed. It is so ordered.