United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge
Bradley Buros seeks judicial review of a final decision of
defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security, finding her not disabled under the Social Security
Act. The administrate law judge found that Buros had several
severe impairments, including type one diabetes. Although the
ALJ found Buros's impairments to be severe, he
nonetheless concluded that Buros retained the residual
functional capacity to perform a significant number of jobs
in the economy and denied his application for disability
appeal, Buros contends that the ALJ made two errors that
require remand: (1) failing to give proper weight to a
treating physician's opinion that Buros's diabetes
caused severe restrictions; and (2) relying improperly on
daily activities to discount Buros's credibility. The
treating physician opined that Buros's diabetes caused
“frequent low blood sugar level episodes” that
affected his ability to work. R. 422. But a progress note that
followed the opinion showed that his sugar levels were normal
after receiving treatment. R. 536. Indeed, the treating
physician himself later wrote that Buros's diabetes was
“managed now” by treatment. R. 436. As for the
credibility determination, the ALJ noted that Buros could
walk his dogs for two to three miles, lift 100 pounds without
much difficulty, and shoot his bow and arrows. Buros does not
deny that he could engage in these activities. The ALJ did
not err in considering his daily activities and concluding
that Buros exaggerated his symptoms. Buros has not identified
a reversible error, so the court will deny Buros's motion
for summary judgment and affirm the Commissioner's
court reviews the final decision of an ALJ “to
determine whether it applies the correct legal standard and
is supported by substantial evidence.” Summers v.
Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Stephens v. Berryhill, No.
16-4003, __ F.3d __ 2018 WL 1918711, at *2 (7th Cir. Apr. 24,
2018) (quoting Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351,
361-62 (7th Cir. 2013)). The court reviews the record as a
whole, but it cannot reconsider facts, weigh the evidence,
decide questions of credibility, or otherwise substitute its
own judgment for that of the ALJ. Id. at *2;
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir.
A treating physician's opinion
Koons, one of Buros's treating sources, opined in three
documents that Buros had severe impairments that precluded
him from employment: a June 11, 2015 treatment note, R.
420-21; a July 29, 2015 “Work Excuse/Restriction”
form, R. 422; and an April 4, 2016 treatment note, R. 436-38.
On appeal, Buros contends that the ALJ erred in evaluating
Koons's opinion in the July 29, 2015 Work
Excuse/Restriction form. In that form, Koons opined that
Buros could sit for 10 minutes at a time, stand for 15
minutes at a time, occasionally lift 15 pounds, and work two
hours each day and eight hours each week. R. 422.
opined that Buros would likely need unscheduled breaks and be
absent from work for two or more days a month. Id.
According to Koons, Buros had these restrictions because of
two medical conditions: “labile brittle insulin
dependent [diabetes] which causes frequent low blood sugar
level episodes” and chronic lumbar radiculopathy
(illness of nerve roots in the lower back) that caused back
and leg pain. Id.
gave all three of Koons's opinions “lesser
weight” for these reasons:
Dr. Koons' opinions are not consistent with the evidence
of record that shows that with better carbohydrate monitoring
and with his new insulin pump, the claimant is able to manage
and control his diabetes, he has essentially eliminated his
hypoglycemic episodes, and can even continue driving a car.
Furthermore, Dr. Koons' opinions are not consistent with
either the objective medical evidence or with the findings of
the consultative medical examiner. Additionally, the
undersigned notes that Dr. Koons repeatedly refers to the
claimant's back pain as having a radiculopathy component,
but physiatry specialist Evan R. Nelson, M.D. noted on August
26, 2015, that the claimant's pain does not radiate.
Finally, Dr. Koons' opinions that the claimant cannot
work are given no weight because the determination of
disability is reserved to the Commissioner.
R. 22-23 (citations to the record omitted). Buros contends
that the ALJ erred because, among other reasons, the ALJ
should have given Koons's July 29, 2015 opinion
controlling weight or given greater weight under the
regulatory factors enumerated in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c). Buros challenges the ALJ's evaluation of
Koons's July 29, 2015 opinion as to his diabetes; he does
not argue that the ALJ should have developed the record as to
his diabetes or that the ALJ erred in evaluating Koons's
opinion as to his other impairments, namely chronic lumbar
radiculopathy, neck pain, and pulmonary embolus. R. 420-21,
436- 38. The court concludes that even though the
ALJ's reasoning might not be flawless, Buros has not
identified a reversible error.
treating physician's opinion about the severity of a
claimant's medical condition is entitled to controlling
weight if “is well-supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not
inconsistent with the other substantial evidence” in
the record. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); accord
Stephens v. Berryhill, No. 16-4003, 2018 WL 1918711, at
*3 (7th Cir. Apr. 24, 2018). An ALJ who declines to give
controlling weight to a treating physician's opinion must
give “good reasons.” § 404.1527(c)(2);
see also Israel v. Colvin, 840 F.3d 432, 437 (7th
Cir. 2016). Those reasons must be supported by substantial
evidence in the record. Vanprooyen v. Berryhill, 864
F.3d 567, 573 (7th Cir. 2017).
ALJ does not give controlling weight to a treating
physician's opinion, the ALJ must still evaluate the
opinion under the regulatory factors enumerated in §
404.1527(c). Those factors include examining relationship,
treatment relationship, supportability, consistency,
specialization, and any other relevant information that tend
to support or contradict the medical opinion. Id.;
see also Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 637 (7th
Cir. 2013). The ALJ need not explicitly discuss every factor.
See Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 415-16 (7th Cir.
2008) (affirming the denial of benefits even though the ALJ
discussed only two regulatory factors). The ALJ need only
“minimally articulate his reasons-a very deferential
standard that [the Seventh Circuit], in fact, deemed
lax.” Id. at 415 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
contends that the ALJ should have given controlling weight to
Koons's July 29, 2015 opinion on his diabetes. Koons
opined that Buros's diabetes caused “frequent low
blood sugar level episodes, ” R. 422, but the record
shows that after improved carbohydrates monitoring and use of
his new insulin pump, he no longer had the “frequent
low blood sugar level episodes” that Koons had noted.
Koons, a physician at the Vernon Memorial Healthcare, noted
that Buros received treatment for his diabetes at the Mayo
Clinic Health System. R. 420, 437. A treatment note from the
Mayo Clinic dated January 7, 2016, months after Koons's
July 29, 2015 opinion, showed that Buros's sugar levels
were normal after receiving treatment. R. 536. (“His
meter download shows that he has had no severe lows. He has
gone into threshold suspend a few times but when he has
checked his blood sugar, his blood sugar has always been
within normal ...