Submitted, February 11, 2015
Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Jefferson City.
For Karl William Wright, Plaintiff - Appellant: Timothy C. Harlan, HARLAN & HARLAN, Columbia, MO.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: Kevin B. Murphy, Assistant Regional Counsel, Kristi Schmidt, Deputy Chief Counsel, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Kansas City, MO; Jerry Lee Short, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Kansas City, MO.
Before LOKEN, SMITH, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.
SMITH, Circuit Judge.
Karl William Wright appeals the district
court's order upholding the Social Security Commissioner's decision to deny his applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. Wright argues that the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred by discrediting the opinions of two examining physicians, discrediting Wright's testimony, not considering Wright's mental condition as a severe impairment, and not considering the record as a whole. We affirm.
A. Wright's Physical Condition
Wright is a fifty-year-old man that suffers from back and knee pain. Wright suffered a shoulder injury and complained of low back pain after being involved in a severe car accident in 2000. The record indicates that Wright also suffered from another severe automobile accident in 1987. Wright described his pain as a " stinging" pain in his lower middle back and that this pain " goes down both" legs. Wright's obesity compounds his problems. At the time Wright applied for social security benefits, he was six-feet tall and weighed 350 lbs. As a result of his pain and obesity, Wright testified that his average day consists principally of laying on his back trying to get comfortable and spending around 30 minutes cooking basic meals for himself. Wright testified that his pain forces him to keep his movements during the day to a minimum. His limited mobility notwithstanding, Wright is able to drive and goes out " [a]bout three times a month" to the grocery store, the bank, and appointments with doctors. Wright's physical limitations, however, do not affect " his ability to remember, concentrate, understand, follow instructions, use his hands, or get along with others."
Due to his condition, Wright sought the help of several doctors over the past several years to manage his pain. After his car accident in 2000, Wright weighed 260 lbs., his C-spine series was negative, and his lumbar spine was described as " unremarkable." Nearly a decade later, Wright's weight had substantially increased. On August 14, 2009, Wright began visiting Dr. Joshua Griggs, a family physician. By this date, Wright weighed 356 lbs. Dr. Griggs noted that Wright " has a past medical history of degenerative disc disease in the spine . . . as well as multi-level disc disease in the L4-L5 area." On top of these back issues, Dr. Griggs noted that Wright had " type 2 diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, tobacco abuse, obesity, [and] bilateral knee arthritis." Wright was able to bend his back over to 90 degrees, and " [e]xtension, lateral bending and twisting is all painful but normal." In addition to prescribing diabetes treatment and pain medication, Dr. Griggs counseled Wright on diet and exercise to lose weight. Dr. Griggs noted that Wright was " adamantly against" taking water aerobic classes because of the cost; still, Dr. Griggs advised Wright to start walking because it was free.
On September 1, 2009, Wright saw Dr. William Harris, an orthopedic surgeon, to assess Wright's knee pain. Dr. Harris found that Wright's knees were tender and showed " a little bit of loss with the weightbearing space" but otherwise exhibited a regular range of motion and " appeared to be essentially unremarkable with very minimal degenerative changes."
On December 10, 2009, Wright saw Dr. Usaikimi Igbaseimokumo, a neurological surgeon. Dr. Igbaseimokumo diagnosed Wright with " [l]umbar spondylosis with low back pain." Dr. Igbaseimokumo noted
that Wright complained of " low back pain" but had " no significant leg pain" on that particular occasion. Dr. Igbaseimokumo also found that Wright's lumbar spine was tender, but found no " obvious deformity."
On February 19, 2010, Wright underwent an MRI of his lumbar spine. The MRI revealed degenerative disks at L4-L5 and L5-S1 of Wright's spine. Also, there was a moderate to severe central canal narrowing at L4-L5 with a diffuse disc bulge and a triangular appearance. There was also a mild diffuse disc bulge at L5-S1 with mild narrowing of the ...