MELINDA S. DARLAND,
JO ANNE B. BARNHART,
Commissioner of Social Security,
[2002 DSD 30]
United States District Court
District of South Dakota--Central Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
John A. Hamilton, SD Advocacy Service, Sioux Falls, SD
Brian G. Gosch, SD Advocacy Service, Rapid City, SD
Attorneys for Plaintiff.
Cheryl Schrempp Dupris, US Attorneys Office, Pierre, SD
Attorney for Defendants.
Opinion Filed Oct 28, 2002
Moreno, Mark A., United States Magistrate Judge
[¶1] The above-captioned Social Security case was referred to this Court by the District Court (1) pursuant to 28 USC §636(b) for the purpose of conducting any necessary hearings (2) and submitting to it proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition of the case (Docket No. 11). After careful scrutiny of the record and based on the totality of the circumstances present, the Court does now make and propose the following Findings of Fact, Report and Recommendations for Disposition.
[¶2] Plaintiff, Melinda S. Darland (Darland) filed this action seeking judicial review from a final decision rendered by the Social Security Commissioner (Commissioner) denying her October 13, 1998 (October 5, 1998 protective) Application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 USC §§ 1381-1383c (Docket No. 13 at 1). (3) Darland's application was denied initially on December 11, 1998, and upon reconsideration (Admin. R. 77-80, 91-93, 255-58, 260-62). After a hearing (Admin. R. 24-74), an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determined that Darland was not disabled and therefore not eligible for SSI benefits (Admin. R. 12-20). The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's determination (Admin. R. 4-5), making it the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 CFR § 416.1481. (4)
[¶3] Darland then sought judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, filing a Complaint on August 8, 2001, pursuant to 42 USC §405(g) (Docket No. 1). The Commissioner answered the Complaint and Darland moved for summary judgment (Docket Nos. 8, 12). Both parties thereafter filed memoranda detailing their respective arguments (Docket Nos. 13, 17, 18).
[¶4] The general issue presented is whether Darland is "disabled" within the meaning of §1382c(a)(3)(A). This question turns in large part on whether Darland, despite an impairment that prevented her from doing her past relevant work, could nonetheless make certain adjustments and perform other work (i.e., engage in other substantial gainful activity).
[¶5] For the reasons more fully explained below, the Court finds and concludes that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision that Darland is not disabled and is therefore not entitled to SSI benefits.
[¶6] Darland is 43 years of age (dob 10-24-58), married and has five children (Admin. R. 28, 30). She was employed as an LPN at St. Mary's Hospital in Pierre, South Dakota from 1985 to 1989 and then stopped working to become a homemaker when her fourth child was born (Admin. R. 29-30). She has not worked since March, 1989 (Admin. R. 42, 119). Darland began complaining of trouble with her bowels in 1991 and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's Disease. (5) In June 1992, her symptoms had been resolved (Admin. R. 163). She did not see a doctor about her condition for almost six years (Admin. R. 232). In March, 1998, she returned to Dr. Phillip E. Hoffsten, the internist who previously treated her, complaining of mucous and blood in her stools (Admin. R. 48-49, 232-33). She then underwent two colonoscopies in April and August, 1998 (Admin. R. 186-87, 190-91, 196-98) and later reported that she was in "good spirits" (Admin. R. 226), and that her symptoms were "tolerable" (Admin. R. 219).
[¶7] At the August 26, 1999 hearing before the ALJ, Darland testified that since 1998, her condition had worsened (Admin. R. 38, 60) and that she could not work because she had to constantly go to the bathroom (Admin. R. 40-41). Stress, according to Darland, exacerbated her condition (Admin. R. 58). In addition to her bowel problems, Darland testified that she had debilitating headaches (Admin. R. 44) and back pain (Admin. R. 56).
[¶8] The ALJ reviewed the entire record and found Darland's assertions that she was completely unable to work were not credible (Admin. R. 17, 19). In doing so, the ALJ gave great weight to the opinions of state agency physicians who, after reviewing the record, found that Darland could perform light exertion work (6) (Admin. R. 155-62, 259). The ALJ also gave great weight to the vocational expert (VE) who testified that a person of Darland's age, education and work experience who could do light exertion work and had access to a bathroom on an as needed basis, could perform a significant number of jobs in the regional economy (Admin. R. 71-73).
[¶9] The salient medical evidence of record, setting forth Darland's various physical, and associated mental problems, dates back to 1991.
[¶10] On January 3, 1991, Darland was hospitalized in Pierre for the treatment of erythema nodosum (7) (Admin. R. 211). During her hospital stay, Darland developed severe diarrhea, which Dr. Hoffsten thought might be ulcerative colitis (Admin. R. 211). (8) While in the hospital, Darland was seen, at the request of Dr. Hoffsten, by Dr. Frank L. Dame, a clinical psychologist, for anxiety and stress related issues as well as depression (Admin. R. 206-07, 209-10). She was then examined by a proctologist who concluded that she had active colitis, consistent with Crohn's colitis (Admin. R. 177). Later that same month, Darland was hospitalized at the Mayo Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, where she was treated by Dr. William J. Termaine (Admin. R. 169-70). Dr. Termaine opined that Darland had Crohn's colitis and prescribed medication and conservative treatment (Admin. R. 170).
[¶11] On March 6, 1991, Darland, in a follow-up appointment with Dr. Hoffsten, reported that she was no longer bleeding or having diarrhea (Admin. R. 242). In May, 1991, Darland again told Dr. Hoffsten that she was not bleeding or having diarrhea and that she was "doing very well at this time" (Admin. R. 242). Darland returned to and was examined by Dr. Termaine on June 10, 1991 (Admin. R. 166). Dr. Termaine was not sure whether Darland had Crohn's colitis or ulcerative colitis and favored the latter, which he believed was now in remission (Admin. R. 167). The next year, Dr. Termaine referred to Darland's condition as Crohn's colitis and noted that she had no diarrhea and that her condition had virtually resolved itself (Admin. R. 163).
[¶12] In March 1998, Darland was seen by Dr. Hoffsten after she began noticing blood and mucous in her stools (Admin. R. 232). She had been asymptomatic for approximately six years (Admin. R. 232). Hoffsten believed that the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis was "more credible" and that her colitis was "recurrent at this point" (Admin. R. 232-33). He ordered a colonoscopy and Dr. E.R. Becker, a surgeon, performed one on April 10, 1998 in Pierre (Admin. R. 196-98, 233). Dr. Becker's impression was "probable ulcerative colitis" (Admin. R. 198) and the findings of the pathologist were consistent "with quiescent colitis" (Admin. R. 188).
[¶13] In May, 1998, Dr. Hoffsten saw Darland and noted that her ulcerative colitis was "doing much better" and that she was down to four, primarily formed, stools a day (Admin. R. 224). The following month, Darland advised Dr. Hoffsten that her stools for the most part seemed to be formed, but occasionally were loose and that she had "very little" blood in them. Dr. Hoffsten recommended that Darland undergo another colonoscopy and Darland agreed to do so (Admin. R. 225).
[¶14] On July 21, 1998, Darland reported that she was in "good spirits" and "walking up to four miles per day" (Admin. R. 226). She denied having any abdominal pain or related systemic complaints (Id.). In Dr. Becker's view, her condition "appear[ed] to be stable to improved relative to her symptomatic Crohn's disease" (Admin. R. 226). In his August, 1998 operative report, Dr. Becker noted "dramatic improvement" in Darland's medical therapy (Admin. R. 186). "[N]o evidence of active bleeding, gross adenomas, or similar polyps" was found in Darland's bowel by Dr. Becker and it appeared to him that her condition had improved (Admin. R. 187). Following her second colonoscopy, Darland returned to Dr. Becker, "without complaints of frequent diarrheal or grossly bloody stools . . . [s]pecifically stat[ing] that her bowel movements [were] normal" (Admin. R. 227). On August 29, 1998, Darland reported to Dr. Hoffsten that she was continuing to have one to four stools per day, never formed, always with some mucous and often with a small amount of blood, but that nonetheless her situation was "tolerable" (Admin. R. 219). Dr. Hoffsten did not believe that "additional medical steps" were warranted at that time unless her condition worsened (Id.).
[¶15] A state agency physician subsequently reviewed, in December 1998, Darland's medical records and assessed her residual physical functional capacity (Admin. R. 155-62). (9) After doing so, the physician concluded that Darland could lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently and could stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour work day (Admin. R. 156), but should avoid concentrated exposure to [f]umes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, etc." (Admin. R. 159). On March 12, 1999, a second state agency physician reviewed Darland's medical records and concurred in the initial residual functional capacity assessment (Admin. R.162; see also Admin. R. 259).
[¶16] At the hearing, Darland testified that her condition had become "much worse" since 1998 (Admin. R. 51, 60). Darland said that most of the grocery shopping she left to her husband to do (Admin. R. 39) and that if she did any such shopping, she took one of her boys along to assist her (Admin. R. 52, 56). She acknowledged that she was able to do normal housework, cooking and laundry (Admin. R. 39), but maintained that these tasks took her a while to do, because of frequent bathroom visits, and that bending over and stooping made her go to the bathroom more often (Admin. R. 36, 39). She described how she would occasionally have bowel movements that would come on suddenly and without warning and run down her legs (Admin. R. 40). She claimed that she had headache pain that lasted "pretty much a full day" but was able to resolve the pain by taking Tylenol (Admin. R. 44-45). Darland testified that she had fecal incontinence once every two months, diarrhea every day, and that she went to the bathroom four times a day (Admin. R. 50). Travel, Darland asserted, was more difficult because of her need to make bathroom stops (Admin. R. 52-53). She emphasized that the more active she was, the more she needed to go to the bathroom and pointed out how she was "lucky" to get to the corner of her block before she had to turn around and come home and use the bathroom (Admin. R. 54). She did not believe she was capable of occasionally lifting 10, much less 20, pounds (Admin. R. 55-56). She mentioned how when she had gone for short walks she would have lower back pain that would "get real bad" (Admin. R. 56). According to Darland, she would "love to work", preferring to work at home, but did not believe she could do so because of the stress involved and her frequent, unpredictable and urgent need to visit the bathroom (Admin. R. 40-41, 53-54, 57-59).
[¶17] Darland's husband also testified at the hearing (Admin. R. 63-66). His testimony was consistent with Darland's.
[¶18] After Darland and her husband both testified, the VE was given three hypotheticals by the ALJ. In the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to:
[A]ssume that this hypothetical person experienced an onset of problems . . . which resulted in diarrhea and subsequently in an evaluation in Mayo where she was evaluated for possible ulcerative colitis and possible Crohn's disease. That as a result, she had been diagnosed as having colitis . . . or had symptoms of colitis . . . . [S]he was relatively well controlled for a period from 1992 until 1998. That she did have some diarrhea, but that it was not of such a degree that she was taking medical care and medical treatment . . . . [I]n 1998, she had a situation where she was having blood in her stools and that she had two colonoscopies . . . . [She] has symptoms of ulcerative colitis and . . . diarrhea, . . . she would have frequent requirements of going to the bathroom at unpredictable times, that about once a month she might have a situation where the stools would unexpectedly run down her leg. She had good and bad days where she would have up to three to four or three days out of seven were bad days. She does have some diarrhea everyday, sometimes she doesn't have it, but goes to the bathroom four times a day at a time. That she does have headaches . . . approximately once a month . . . . [She was to] avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases and poor ventilation.
(Admin. R. 68-70). The VE opined that the person described could not work (Admin. R. 71). [¶19] In the second hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to consider someone of Darland's age, with the same educational background and work history, who:
(Admin. R. 71). The VE testified that there were jobs available that were not time dependent where the hypothetical person could schedule her own bathroom breaks. These jobs included an assembler of small products, an electronics worker, a sizer, and a cleaner/housekeeper. [¶20] In the third hypothetical the ALJ proposed, the VE was asked to assume that someone:
(Admin. R. 73). In response, the VE stated that there were no occupations in the general line of work he had just mentioned that the hypothetical person could do (Admin. R. 73-74).
[¶21] Review of the Commissioner's decision is governed by §405(g). Under this statute, "[t]he findings of the Commissioner . . . as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion." Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). In determining whether existing evidence is substantial, the Court must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Id. The Court may not reverse the Commissioner merely because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id.
[¶22] The Court defers heavily to the findings and conclusions of the Commissioner. Howard v. Massanari, 255 F3d 577, 581 (8th Cir. 2001). If after review, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions supports the Commissioner's findings, it must affirm the denial of benefits. Id.; Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F3d 576, 582 (8th Cir. 2002).
[¶23] Darland contends that the ALJ improperly discredited her subjective complaints and symptoms (Docket No. 13 at 4). She argues that the ALJ (and thus the Commissioner's) decision conflicts with the Eighth Circuit's holding in Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F2d 1320 (8th Cir. 1984) (Docket Nos. 13 at 4-16; 18 at 12-14).
[¶24] Pursuant to the Act, the Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process in determining disability. See 20 CFR §416.920(a). This process requires consideration of whether (1) the claimant is gainfully employed; (2) the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) the impairment meets the criteria of any SSI listings; (4) the impairment prevents the claimant from performing past relevant work; and (5) the impairment necessarily prevents the claimant from doing any other work. Ramirez, 292 F3d at 580. If a claimant fails to meet any of these criteria, the process ends and the claimant is determined to be not disabled.
[¶25] In the instant case, the ALJ completed all five steps in the evaluation process, concluding that (1) Darland had not engaged in substantial, gainful activity since 1989; (2) her ulcerative colitis was a "severe" impairment; (3) her impairment did not meet or equal the criteria of any impairments listed in the SSI regulations; (4) she was unable to perform her past relevant work; and (5) her impairment did not prevent her from doing other work (Admin. R. 13-18).
[¶26] In evaluating Darland's subjective complaints and symptoms, the ALJ considered the factors outlined in Polaski and codified in §416.929(c) (10) (Admin. R. 16-18). The ALJ also recognized that Darland had established that because she could not perform her past relevant work, the burden shifted to the Commissioner to show that there were jobs existing in the national economy which she could perform (Admin. R. 18). See Krogmeier, 294 F3d at 1022. Nevertheless, the ALJ found that Darland's subjective complaints were not consistent with evidence of record and that her allegations of being unable to work were not credible (Admin. R. 19).
[¶27] An ALJ may discount a claimant's subjective complaints if there are inconsistencies in the evidence as a whole. Goodale v. Halter, 257 F3d 771, 774 (8th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 122 S.Ct. 1212 (2002); McKinney, 228 F3d at 864. Where there is good reason for discrediting a claimant's objective complaints, the ALJ's decision cannot be disturbed. Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F3d 793, 796-97 (8th Cir. 2001); Dunahoo v. Apfel, 241 F3d 1033, 1038 (8th Cir. 2001).
[¶28] Here, there are a whole host of inconsistencies in the record that support the ALJ's credibility determination. Some of the more glaring ones include the following:
[¶29] Aside from these inconsistencies, there are other factual circumstances in the record that call into question Darland's subjective complaints and her assertion that she was unable to work at all. First, it is significant that Darland's treating physicians never placed any restrictions on her, let alone opined that she was disabled. The absence of any physician ordered limitations strongly militates against any claim of total disability. See Tennant v. Apfel, 224 F3d 869, 871 (8th Cir. 2000); Hutton v. Apfel, 175 F3d 651, 655 (8th Cir. 1999).
[¶30] Second, the fact that Darland was able to do her normal housekeeping chores (cooking, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning, dishes and laundry), shop, read, watch television, pay bills, care for her children, run errands and go for walks (Admin. R. 39, 51-53, 128-129), while not dispositive, is nonetheless persuasive evidence that buttresses the ALJ's assessment of her credibility. Ramirez, 292 F3d at 582; Dunahoo, 241 F3d at 1038.
[¶31] Third, the ALJ observed that there was no medical evidence to support Darland's complaints of debilitating headaches (Admin. R. 17; see also Admin. R. 44-45). Nor was there any mention in her medical records to Darland complaining of back pain or having any back problems. The lack of corroborating medical evidence as to these complaints undermines her testimony. See Ramirez, 292 F3d at 582; Wheeler v. Apfel, 224 F3d 891, 895 (8th Cir. 2000).
[¶32] Fourth, it appears that Darland has had problems coping with stress for many years. In 1991, she was referred by Dr. Hoffsten for a psychological consult and was diagnosed with a stress related anxiety disorder and depression (Admin. R. 210). Dr. Dame implemented a relaxation program, using mental imagery, to help her work through the phobias she suffered from (Admin. R. 207, 209). Seven years later, Darland again complained of stress, listing it as a related cause to her ulcerative colitis and her ultimate disability (Admin. R. 130, 143, 152). There is nothing in the record to demonstrate that she tried to address her stress problem by seeing a mental health professional, obtaining treatment, counseling or therapy or by using some other means (besides taking Tylenol). Darland made some positive strides toward controlling her stress and anxiety in 1991 and she provided no explanation as to why she could not again undertake some kind of stress management to relieve, or at least lessen, her stress level and improve her condition, and thus her ability to work.
[¶33] Fifth, Darland's residual functional capacity, as determined by the ALJ, is in accord with the opinions of the state agency physicians (Admin. R. 15-16, 155-62), the medical evidence presented and her own oral and written statements. Opinions of consulting physicians may serve as substantial evidence when they are supported by other evidence in the record and are consistent with it. Craig v. Apfel, 212 F3d 433, 436 (8th Cir. 2000); Smallwood v. Chater, 65 F3d 87, 89 (8th Cir. 1995); see also Hight v. Shalala, 986 F2d 1242, 1244, n.1 (8th Cir. 1993).
[¶34] Sixth, the testimony of the VE supports the ALJ's finding that Darland is not disabled. When asked to consider a person of Darland's age, education and work experience with a residual functional capacity described by the state agency physicians, the VE opined that the person would be able to perform certain unskilled jobs that permitted her to complete tasks on her own schedule and take bathroom breaks when needed (Admin. R. 71-72). The ALJ properly relied on the VE's testimony and response to an appropriate hypothetical question in determining whether the Commissioner had met her burden of proving that there were a significant number of jobs that existed in the region that Darland could perform. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F3d 1211, 1220 (8th Cir. 2001).
[¶35] Finally, despite complaints that her condition had worsened, Darland did not go back to Drs. Hoffsten or Becker or seek remedial assistance from any other healthcare providers for 8-12 months. (12) Darland's "failure to seek medical assistance for her alleged physical impairment [ ] contradicts her subjective complaints of a disabling condition [ ] and supports the ALJ's decision to deny benefits." Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F3d 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997).
[¶36] Darland argues that the ALJ erred in finding that she had four formed stools a day and that because the VE's second hypothetical was predicated on such a finding, it too was erroneous and resulted in an opinion that could not be relied on (Docket No. 13 at 9-11, 16-17). It appears that Darland never specifically told anyone that all her daily stools were formed completely. She did, however, report to Dr. Hoffsten on May 27, 1998, that she was "down to 4 stools a day" and that her "stools [were] primarily formed" (Admin. R. 224) (emphasis added). The following month, she advised him that her "stools, for the most part [,] seemed to be formed and occasionally they [would] be loose" (Admin. R. 226) (emphasis added). In August, 1998, she informed Drs. Becker and Hoffsten that she was having "normal" bowel movements one to four times a day (Admin. R. 219, 227). Three months later, she apparently told Dr. Hoffsten that "[h]er stools are formed often four per day" (Admin R. 39) (emphasis added). At the hearing she testified that four times a day was an "accurate assessment" of how often she went to the bathroom each day (Admin. R. 50) (13).
[¶37] This evidence alone is substantial enough to support the ALJ's finding and the "four formed stool" portion of the hypothetical question he posed to the VE. See Hutton, 175 F3d at 656-57. More importantly, the ALJ's hypothetical adequately captured the concrete consequences of Darland's deficiencies and set forth the impairments he accepted as true in light of the medical evidence and the record as a whole. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F3d 962, 966-67 (8th Cir. 2001); Warburton v. Apfel, 188 F3d 1047, 1050-51 (8th Cir. 1999). Significantly, Darland's own testimony concerning the number of stools she had each day was contradictory. She claimed that the frequency of her stools had increased since March, 1999, and that she had bowel movements "more often than four times" every day (Admin. R. 37; see also Admin. R. 38). She later testified though that she went to the bathroom four times a day (Admin. R. 50). It is therefore easy to see why the ALJ refused to credit a large part of her testimony and phrased the hypothetical in the manner that he did. (14) See Young v Apfel, 221 F3d 1065, 1069-70 (8th Cir. 2000).
[¶38] Regardless, the fact that the VE was asked to assume that the hypothetical person's four daily stools were formed did not vitiate or unduly taint the reliability of his opinion, because he was likewise asked to assume that the person "was capable of working . . . in a job where she would have access to bathrooms when needed" (Admin. R. 71). It is this "bathroom availability" component of the hypothetical that makes the "formed stool" component of little, if any, importance. The VE's opinion most certainly demonstrates that a person in Darland's shoes who had four stools in a day (whether formed, runny or a mixture of the two) and had access to a bathroom as needed, could work in jobs that were prevalent in the three-state area of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. The critical difference between the three hypotheticals and the VE's responses to the same is the absence (in the case of the first and third hypotheticals) and the presence (in the case of the second one) of the "accessability to bathrooms when needed" component.
[¶39] In any event, Darland readily admitted that she was able to perform her household labors with appropriate bathroom breaks (Admin. R. 36) and that she had in mind working at home where she felt comfortable and had ready access to a bathroom (Admin. R. 57-58). These admissions indicate, or at least strongly suggest, that Darland believed she could work if she had bathroom facilities in close proximity to her and could use them whenever she needed them.
[¶40] Insofar as Darland contends that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, her contention must fail. The ALJ properly performed the analysis required under Polaski and §416.929(c) in evaluating Darland's subjective complaints and the extent to which her symptoms affected her ability to work. Krogmeier, 294 F3d at 1024; Ramirez, 292 F3d at 580-82; see also Dunahoo, 241 F3d at 1038. The Court agrees with the ALJ that while Darland suffered from a colitis related impairment, she nonetheless retained the residual functional capacity to perform work at the light level of physical exertion. Ramirez, 292 F3d at 583. After a thorough review of all relevant evidence, including the medical records, the opinions of the physicians and the VE and Darland's statements regarding her daily activities and overall condition, the Court concludes that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ and Commissioner's decisions to deny SSI benefits.
[¶41] Based on the foregoing findings, conclusions and analysis and in light of the entirety of the record, it is hereby
[¶42] RECOMMENDED that Darland's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 12), be denied in all respects and with prejudice. It is further
[¶43] RECOMMENDED that judgment be entered forthwith and in accordance with §405(g) affirming the decision of the Commissioner.
Failure to file written objections to the within and foregoing Report and Recommendations for Disposition within ten (10) days from the date of service shall bar an aggrieved party from attacking such Report and Recommendations before the assigned United States District Judge. See 28 USC §636(b)(1).
1. The Honorable Charles B. Kornmann, United States District Judge, Presiding.
2. No hearings were held because none were needed to decide the case.
3. Darland also applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but later conceded that because the insured status for her SSDI claim had lapsed on September 30, 1993, and because her condition was in remission until 1998, she did not qualify for Title II benefits (Docket No. 13 at 1-2, n. 1; 18 at 2, n. 1).
4. Unless otherwise stated, references to the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) in this Report are to the C.F.R.'s 2001 edition.
5. Darland's doctors are not in complete agreement as to what exactly her problem is, but appear to lean toward the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
6. "Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good deal of walking, standing or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls." 20 CFR §404.1567(b).
7. Erythema nodosum is a type of skin inflammation that is located in a portion of the fatty layer of skin. It results in reddish, painful, tender lumps most commonly located in the front of the legs below the knees. The tender lumps, or nodules, range in size from one to five centimeters. The nodular swelling is caused by a special pattern of inflammation in the fatty layer of skin.
Erythema nodosum occurs as an isolated condition or in association with other conditions including inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis).
MedicineNet.com (Online) http://www.focusoncrohnsdisease.com/script/main/forum.asp?articlekey=1964&page=1 (Last editorial review March 27, 2002).
8. Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the top layers of the lining of the large intestine. The inflammation usually occurs in the rectum and lower part of the colon, but it may affect the entire colon. The inflammation makes the colon empty frequently, causing diarrhea. Ulcers form in places where the inflammation has killed colon lining cells; the ulcers bleed and produce pus and mucous.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease. This disease differs from ulcerative colitis in that it causes inflammation deeper within the intestinal wall and usually occurs in the small intestine (although it can also be present in the duodenum, large intestine, appendix and anus).
The most popular theory as to the cause of ulcerative colitis is that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium causing ongoing inflammation in the intestinal wall. People with ulcerative colitis have abnormalities of the immune system, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or a result of the disease. Ulcerative colitis is not caused by emotional distress or sensitivity to certain foods or food products, but these factors may trigger symptoms in some people.
The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. People may also experience fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, rectal bleeding and loss of body fluids and nutrients.
Most people can be treated with medication. In severe cases, a person may need surgery to remove the diseased colon. Surgery is the only cure for ulcerative colitis.
Some people have remissions - periods when the symptoms go away - that last for months or even years. Most people's symptoms, however, eventually return.
"National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders of the National Institutes of Health. Publication 95-1597: Ulcerative Colitis (Last revised June 24, 1999) (Online) http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/pubs/colitis/colitis.htm"
9. Residual functional capacity is what a claimant can do despite her limitations. 20 CFR §416.945(a).
10. These factors are as follows:
See also, McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F3d 860, 864 (8th Cir. 2000) (listing factors).
11. Darland testified that the more active she was, the more she had to go to the bathroom (Admin. R. 54). Assuming this to be true, how then was she able to walk these distances without going to the bathroom and exacerbating her condition?
12. In a letter dated January 20, 1999, Dr. Hoffsten makes reference to sending copies of his medical notes from August 29, 1998 to November 19, 1998 to the Disability Determination Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Admin R. 217). These notes, however, are not contained anywhere in the record. Yet even if Darland was seen by Dr. Hoffsten in November, 1998, which is not altogether clear (see Admin. R. 37-38), the record indicates, and she testified on August 26, 1999, that she had not sought or received medical care for this problem for at least eight months (Admin. R. 39-40, 61, 144, 150).
Darland claims that the ALJ overlooked Dr. Hoffsten's letter, the "only record in the file . . . dated subsequent to her application for [SSI] benefits" (Docket No. 18 at 3). A review of the record, however, reveals that this "record" is based on Dr. Hoffsten's medical notes from 1998 and that the last time he had seen Darland had been two and-a-half months before the letter was written (Admin. R. 39-40, 217) and maybe even longer (Admin. R. 37-38, 219).
13. It is interesting to note that Darland's own counsel when questioning her, recognized that Dr. Hoffsten's "reports are suggesting four formed stools a day and they don't mention at all the diarrhea cycle" (Admin. R. 60-61). Although not sure, Darland "thought" she "mention[ed] to him diarrhea along with formed stools" (Admin R. 61).
14. It is plain from the record that the ALJ, at times, questioned the truthfulness of Darland's testimony (see e.g. Admin. R. 33, 39-40, 61-62).