decision were either prejudicial or unfair. I believe that a careful examination of the record shows that the Secretary, rather than plaintiff, is entitled to summary judgment.
At the outset, I note that plaintiff had the burden of proving that he was unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity. See generally 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3) (1976). To this end, plaintiff offered a number of medical reports as well as his own testimony. The ALJ specifically found that although plaintiff suffered from a variety of ailments (lumbosacral strain, minimal spondylosis in the lumbar spine, mild obstructive lung disease, and depression), none of these impairments, either singly or in combination, was of disabling severity. Record at 13. The ALJ also rejected plaintiff's subjective complaints of severe back pain as not credible. Id. The only question before me is whether the finding of the ALJ that plaintiff is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (1976). I conclude that it is.
Unlike the Magistrate, I have no difficulty with the ALJ's assessment of the medical evidence and the determination that plaintiff's medical problems do not preclude his return to some of his previous occupations. I simply do not find the medical evidence to be as compelling as the Magistrate suggests. To be sure, the physicians' reports chronicle and substantiate plaintiff's various ailments, and the ALJ so found. The ALJ concluded, however, that plaintiff's impairments were not severe enough to be disabling, and would not prevent him from performing jobs that did not require extensive walking, carrying, or lifting. Record at 12. This finding must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence.
In attacking the ALJ's finding, the Magistrate observes that two doctors recommended that plaintiff do no lifting. Report & Recommendation at 4. The Magistrate improperly concludes, however, that these reports, considered in light of the reports substantiating some of plaintiff's ailments, constitute substantial evidence of disability. First, the report of Dr. Morris is somewhat ambiguous. It is not at all clear whether he did, in fact, recommend no lifting and minimal walking or whether he was merely recording plaintiff's own description of his limitations. See Record at 144. Second, the proscription on lifting appears in only two of the numerous medical reports that make up this record. Inconsistencies in the medical reports do not automatically necessitate reversal of the Secretary's decision as unsupported by substantial evidence. It is the Secretary's obligation to resolve any conflicts in the evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1426, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971). Therefore, even though the evidence may be susceptible of a different inference, the conclusion drawn by the Secretary must nevertheless be sustained if, on review of the entire record, it is determined that the Secretary's decision is supported by substantial evidence.
The medical evidence in this record negates the existence of either a psychological or physiological abnormality as the cause of the markedly restricted activity alleged in plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Moreover, at least two physicians commented that plaintiff's subjective complaints outweighed objective medical findings. Record at 128, 161. After reviewing all of the medical evidence, and particularly in light of the aforementioned comments, I find that there is substantial evidence in this record to support the Secretary's conclusion that plaintiff is not disabled by reason of a medically determinable impairment.
The Magistrate also recommends reversal of the Secretary's decision because the ALJ failed to consider two medical reports ostensibly corroborative of plaintiff's complaints of pain and consequently improperly discounted plaintiff's own testimony. Report & Recommendation at 4-5. I do not adopt the Magistrate's recommendation because I do not accept the grounds on which that recommendation is based.
It is undisputed that subjective complaints may provide the basis for an award of benefits even though the testimony is unsupported by objective medical data. Bittel v. Richardson, 441 F.2d 1193, 1195 (3d Cir. 1971). This does not mean, however, that the ALJ may not gauge the credibility and weight of the subjective testimony against the other evidence in the record, including adverse objective medical findings, diagnoses, and expert medical opinions. See Gaultney v. Weinberger, 505 F.2d 943, 945-46 (5th Cir. 1974) (subjective evidence does not necessarily take precedence over conflicting objective medical testimony); Baith v. Weinberger, 378 F. Supp. 596, 603 (E.D.Pa.1974) (subjective complaints must be evaluated in light of other evidence in record). Bittel does not suggest, as the Magistrate apparently does, that the Secretary must disprove plaintiff's subjective complaints. To the contrary, the burden remains with plaintiff to satisfy the factfinder that the alleged pain is real and of disabling severity. Bittel v. Richardson, supra, 441 F.2d at 1195; Good v. Weinberger, 389 F. Supp. 350, 353 (E.D.Pa.1975). Subjective complaints, then, may establish plaintiff's entitlement to benefits provided that the ALJ does not reject plaintiff's testimony as unworthy of belief or find that the testimony, although credible, is outweighed by other evidence suggesting that plaintiff is not disabled.
Here, the ALJ acknowledged that plaintiff's most significant complaint was severe and constant back pain. The ALJ nevertheless concluded that
the medical evidence of record and his appearance at the hearing do not substantiate these allegations and reflect doubt as to the claimant's credibility in regard to the subjective complaints offered in connection herewith.