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Jones v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

September 6, 2017



          Jonathan E. Hawley U.S. Magistrate Judge

          In April 2013, the Plaintiff, Victor Lee Jones, Sr., applied for supplemental security income (“SSI”), alleging a disability onset date of July 8, 2010. The state agency denied his application initially and on reconsideration, and the Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). In June 2015, the Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before an ALJ, as did an impartial vocational expert. In July 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding the Plaintiff not disabled. The ALJ's decision became final and appealable in September 2016, when the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1555, 416.1581. The Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. For the reasons stated, infra, the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (D. 12)[1] is DENIED, and the Defendant's motion for summary affirmance (D. 14) is GRANTED.[2]



         The ALJ concluded that Jones had the following severe impairments: Gout, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, history of stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and left knee degenerative joint disease. (D. 7 at ECF p. 27). Notwithstanding these severe impairments, the ALJ also concluded that Jones had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”): “[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except lift and carry 20-pounds occasionally and 10-pounds frequently and stand/walk/sit for 6 hours each out of an 8-hour workday. He could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.” Id. at p. 29.

         The ALJ reasoned in support of this conclusion as follows:

The undersigned does not find the testimony of the claimant, that he is unable to sustain any full time work activities, supported by the record. Inconsistencies in the record regarding the claimant's symptoms contribute to a conclusion that the claimant is not fully credible in his allegation of a totally disabling condition. While the record supports a finding that the claimant has severe physical impairments, the record does not support a finding that his physical impairments would preclude all sustained work activity. On cardio-pulmonary examination, the claimant's lungs were clear to auscultation bilaterally, he had a regular heart rate, and rhythm with no murmurs, gallops, or rubs (Exhibit 7F/14). Physical examination of the claimant's extremities was negative for edema (Exhibit 7F/14). In addition, a concurrent x-ray of the claimant's knees secondary to complaints of knee pain and injury showed mild degenerative changes, but no acute bone abnormalities were identified (Exhibit 3F/12 and 1lF/10). Additionally, a simultaneous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the claimant's brain showed mild atrophy and evidence of an old lacunar infarct in the left centrum semi ovale, but no acute intracranial abnormalities (Exhibit lOF/53). Moreover, a contemporaneous CMP revealed an HgbAic of 5.8 %, which is indicative of well controlled diabetes mellitus (Exhibit lOF/36). While diagnostic testing does reveal some significant findings, also noted above, these must correlate with clinical examination. The medical evidence in this case does not clearly support a finding that the claimant is incapable of performing work within the adopted residual functional capacity.
The undersigned also considered the opinions of the claimant's physicians and the state agency physicians. The record supports the State Agency's findings that the claimant does not meet or equal a Listing and that he is not disabled. With respect to the assessment of the claimant's physical impairments, the state agency consultants found that the claimant had no severe impairments; however, the undersigned in affording the claimant every reasonable benefit of the doubt, finds there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the claimant has severe impairments.
After careful consideration of the evidence, the undersigned finds that the claimant's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible for the reasons explained in this decision.

Id. at pp. 33-34.

         These findings contrasted with Jones's testimony regarding the limitations he experienced. For example, he stated his doctor took him off work after his stroke in July 2010. (D. 7 at ECF p. 53). He explained that he was having multiple strokes and thought there had been about 12 of them. He stated he had also suffered from gout after the stroke. He testified his gout was painful and he could not walk. He stated he had pain in his feet and when he had a flare of gout he could not walk or even put his foot on the floor. He said he has flares of gout at least every month and they sometimes last a couple of weeks. Id. He explained his medication did not help with the frequency or duration of the flares. He stated there are at least seven days in a month that he cannot walk. Id. He stated his doctors had tried medication to prevent the flares, but it had not worked. Id. at 53-58.

         Jones explained that his arthritis had gotten a little worse since he quit working. He noted he gets swollen joints. He pointed out his swollen left hand at the hearing and explained that the swelling makes it hard for him to grab objects. He stated he had trouble putting on shoes when he had a gout flare. He stated he had neuropathy in his left leg which caused constant pain. He said lying down relieves his pain. He stated he could stand less than ten minutes and could sit about 30 minutes before he would have to get up. He testified that he lies down during the day most of the time. He said some days when his pain is better he can go to the store. He stated he has about ten good days a month. He testified his wrists swell up about once a week and he could not lift a gallon of milk. He testified the maximum he could lift was a gallon of milk. (D. 7 at ECF pp. 57-63).

         Jones testified that he does not pick up his one year old child. He stated his doctor had given him a referral to specialist for his hands. He testified he did not use a cane and could walk a block to the bus stop. He testified he has diabetes and does not have to take medications as long as his diet is right. He stated he had not ridden a bicycle for a year. He said he is never alone with his child because the child's mother is always with her. He stated he has trouble sleeping and only sleeps about three hours a night. He stated he cooks when he can - about ten days a month. He said his sister goes to the store for him and he had last been to the store about a month prior to hearing. He testified he helps with the housework sometimes when he is not in pain - about ten days a month. He stated he does not help with yard work or mowing the lawn. He stated sometimes his roommate had to get his clothes from down the hall because he could not walk that far. He stated he also needed help getting to the shower sometimes. He stated he watches television and uses a cell phone. (D. 7 at ECF pp. 64-69).

         In contrast to Jones's testimony was the objective medical evidence presented. First, two state agency physicians found that Jones had no severe physical impairments. There exist no other medical source opinions in the record to contradict ...

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