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Bradley v. Astrue: SOCIAL SECURITY - Administrative Law Judge finding claimant not disabled or credible OK

1Bradleys name was incorrectly listed as Herbert on district court pleadings
and on his notice of appeal. Bradleys medical records consistently label Bradleys
first name as Hubert. Both parties also used Hubert as Bradleys first name on
their respective briefs. We presume the parties and medical records correctly identify
Bradleys name. We therefore correct the apparent error.
United States Court of Appeals
No. 07-2440
Hubert Bradley,1 **
Appellant, *
* Appeal from the United States
v. * District Court for the
* Western District of Missouri.
Michael J. Astrue, *
Commissioner of Social Security *
Administration, *
Appellee. *
Submitted: March 10, 2008
Filed: June 20, 2008
Before RILEY, GRUENDER, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
2The Honorable Nanette K. Laughrey, United States District Judge for the
Western District of Missouri.
RILEY, Circuit Judge.
Hubert Bradley (Bradley) appeals the district courts2 order affirming the denial
of supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. 1381, et seq. (Act). After a hearing on January 28, 2005, an
administrative law judge (ALJ) found Bradley was not disabled as defined by the Act
and, thus, not entitled to Social Security benefits. The appeals council denied review.
The district court affirmed, and we agree.
We review de novo the district courts decision affirming the ALJs denial of
benefits. See Travis v. Astrue, 477 F.3d 1037, 1040 (8th Cir. 2007). In conducting
this review, we consider whether the ALJs decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Id. Substantial evidence is evidence that a
reasonable mind would find adequate to support the ALJs conclusion. Nicola v.
Astrue, 480 F.3d 885, 886 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). We will not disturb the
denial of benefits so long as the ALJs decision falls within the available zone of
choice. Id. (quoting Hacker v. Barnhart, 459 F.3d 934, 936 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation marks omitted)). An ALJs decision is not outside the zone of choice
simply because we might have reached a different conclusion had we been the initial
finder of fact. Id.
The ALJs determination Bradley was not disabled under the Act is supported
by substantial evidence. Bradley suffers from HIV and no doubt faces significant
obstacles in both his work and personal life. The ALJ relied upon the expert medical
testimony of Dr. Selbert Chernoff (Dr. Chernoff). Dr. Chernoff recognized a
combination of HIV-related and unrelated factors, including Bradleys depression,
3Bradley contends the ALJ erred by failing to consider Bradleys global
assessment of functioning (GAF) test score. Given this test was part of Dr. Trues
symptoms of diarrhea, fatigue and chronic shoulder disease causing difficulty in
overhead (and far) reaching, would limit [Bradleys] ability to work . . . . (emphasis
added). Yet, the expert opined Bradleys limitations did not qualify him as having an
impairment under Social Security regulations. The ALJ also relied upon testimony
from a vocational expert who answered a hypothetical limiting Bradleys physical and
mental abilities consistent with the medical experts testimony, and opined Bradley
would be able to work in a number of light or sedentary jobs available in the national
The ALJs adverse credibility finding against Bradley is also supported by
substantial evidence. The ALJ articulated factors supporting the adverse finding,
including (1) many of Bradleys complaints were inconsistent with, or not supported
by, the medical findings and treatment; (2) Bradleys discharge from therapy after
failing to attend recommended appointments; (3) Bradleys sporadic work history; and
(4) the lack of any additional evidence corroborating Bradleys subjective complaints.
The record supports these findings; for example, Bradley was discharged from therapy
after failing to show up for appointments, and Bradley had no reported earnings in
seven separate years since 1987. Our case law permits the ALJs reasonable
inferences. See Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 802 (8th Cir. 2005) (A failure
to follow a recommended course of treatment . . . weighs against a claimants
credibility. (citation omitted)); see also Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1218
(8th Cir. 2001) (A lack of work history may indicate a lack of motivation to work
rather than a lack of ability. (citation omitted)). The credibility of a claimants
subjective testimony is primarily for the ALJ to decide, not the courts. Id. at 1218
(citation omitted).
Finally, the ALJ did not err in discounting more favorable testimony from two
physicians, Dr. James True (Dr. True) and Dr. David Dembinski.3 The ALJ noted
assessment, the ALJ necessarily considered the test when considering the overall
evidence from Dr. True.
4We recognize symptoms, particularly relating to something like depression, are
likely to ebb and flow over the course of time. Such inconsistencies may still lend
support to the ALJs findings, especially when, as here, one of Bradleys assessments
was undated, making it impossible to determine how far apart the assessments
5We also reject Bradleys contention the ALJs mistaken reference to Dr. True
as Dr. Truenz raises a question of whether the ALJ actually read the records . . . .
On the contrary, although Dr. Trues name was typed below his signature, the
signature itself overlapped the typing and was amenable to reading the signature as
Truenz, indicating the ALJ did read Dr. Trues records. In any event, like federal
judges, ALJs are not infallible.
both doctors opinions were conclusory and inconsistent with medical evidence in the
record. Our review confirms these findings and shows us the doctors statements
regarding the extent of Bradleys impairments were at times even inconsistent with
their own examinations. Compare: Dr. True concluding Bradley was incapable of
gainful employment based on his depression alone with Dr. True assessing Bradley
as only mildly depressed.4 Doctor opinions on a patients employment capability,
e.g., Bradley was incapable of gainful employment, are often not entitled to
significant weight. See Flynn v. Chater, 107 F.3d 617, 622 (8th Cir. 1997) (explaining
doctor opinions regarding application of the Social Security statute are not as
persuasive as medical opinions).5
We affirm the ALJs decision and incorporate the well-reasoned opinion of the
district court.


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