JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit J.
Patrick Harwood appeals the judgment of the district court,
Harwood is forty-three years old, has a tenth-grade education, and formerly worked as a jewelry manufacturer and
The ALJ's conclusion was predicated upon a hypothetical question that he posed to a vocational expert. Harwood's treating physician concluded that Harwood could perform "light" work with "no repetitive upper extremity activities," provided that he receive the "opportunity for mini rest breaks for his upper extremities and to rotate activities." The ALJ asked whether an individual with Harwood's skills, work experience and physical limitations could find any unskilled jobs in the national economy. The vocational expert responded that an individual fitting the ALJ's description could find work as a parking enforcement officer, a parking lot attendant, a house-sitter, or a driver. Based largely upon this evidence, the ALJ concluded that Harwood was not entitled to disability benefits.
We must uphold the ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. See Metz v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 374, 376 (8th Cir.1995). Our task is not to reweigh the evidence, and we may not reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite conclusion or merely because we would have decided the case differently. See Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir.1993); Smith v. Shalala, 987 F.2d 1371, 1374 (8th Cir.1993). In determining whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, we must consider evidence in the record that supports the ALJ's decision as well as evidence that detracts from it. See Brockman v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1344, 1346 (8th Cir.1993).
At the outset, we reject the Commissioner's argument that Harwood forfeited two of the three issues he now raises by failing to raise them before the Appeals Council. Although a party seeking judicial review of an agency action must generally exhaust available agency remedies and may not generally proceed upon an argument not made to the agency, see McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 144-45, 112 S.Ct. 1081, 117 L.Ed.2d 291 (1992), the general rule makes little sense in this particular context. Several considerations compel the conclusion that Harwood has not waived the arguments that he did not specifically address to the Appeals Council.
First, the Commissioner urges us to adopt a waiver rule that the agency does not itself enforce. The Appeals Council routinely considers arguments not specifically raised by claimants before it—a product of its duty to review an ALJ's decision "in an informal, nonadversary (sic) manner" and a fitting analogue to the ALJ's well-established duty to develop a full and fair record (even when, as here, claimants are represented by counsel). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.900(b), 416.1400(b) (1999); Jon C. Dubin, Torquemada Meets Kafka: The Misapplication of the Issue Exhaustion Doctrine to Inquisitorial Administrative Proceedings, 97 Colum. L.Rev. 1289, 1325-26 and n. 179 (1997); Wilcutts v. Apfel, 143 F.3d 1134, 1137-38 (8th Cir. 1998) (stating that Commissioner has duty to develop record because hearing is non-adversarial; "The goals of the Secretary and the advocates should be the same:
Second and relatedly, the Appeals Council's non-adversarial proceedings give claimants like Harwood no advance notice that issues not specifically raised will be forfeited. The Commissioner's own regulations establish a one-page form, the HA-520, through which claimants who lose before the ALJ may request review by the Appeals Council. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.205(a) (1999). The form provides a three-line space for claimants to articulate the grounds for appeal—and no warning of the waiver rule that the Commissioner now urges. See Dubin, supra, at 1305, 1332. Indeed, Harwood himself received no notice of such a waiver rule. The ALJ's written decision denying benefits stated that the Appeals Council "may review your case for any reason." Further, the decision warned Harwood that he could not obtain judicial review unless he first sought review by the Appeals Council, or unless the Council reviewed the ALJ's decision on its own motion. Nowhere did it state that Harwood would forfeit issues not raised to the Council, and the ALJ's reassurance that the Council "may review your case for any reason" misleadingly implies otherwise. In effect, the Commissioner urges us to deny judicial review to those claimants who have relied upon the agency's own professed duty to proceed in an "informal, nonadversary manner." We decline to do so.
Third, we are not persuaded by the cases cited in support of the Commissioner's position. As an initial matter, most of them involve issues that claimants failed to raise not only before the ALJ and the Appeals Council, but before the district court as well. See Weikert v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 1249, 1254 (8th Cir.1992); Johnson v. Chater, 108 F.3d 942, 945-46 (8th Cir.1997).
Harwood next argues that the ALJ's finding ignores various intellectual deficiencies discovered during a vocational assessment in July 1995—three months after Harwood applied for benefits. We reject this argument. First, Harwood misreads the record. The ALJ did not ignore the assessment, but rather declined to give it "any significant probative weight." Second, the ALJ's decision to discount the assessment was entirely reasonable. The assessment conflicted with those of Harwood's treating and examining physicians, and it primarily concerned various transferable skills without assessing any unskilled work that Harwood might be capable of performing (such as that described by the vocational expert). Further, Harwood's previous success as a cleaner and manufacturer of jewelry before the onset of his pain belies his claim that he lacks the intellectual capacity to perform the unskilled jobs described by the vocational expert. Although one's physical ability to perform a job does not necessarily imply that he or she "has the mathematical, reasoning, or language skills to perform the duties [of the job] on a full-time basis in a sometimes competitive and stressful environment in the working world," Titus v. Callahan, 133 F.3d 561, 562 (8th Cir.1997), we believe that the ALJ did not err by assigning little probative weight to Harwood's alleged intellectual deficiencies.
Finally, Harwood attacks the ALJ's rejection of Harwood's subjective complaints of disabling pain. "[T]he ALJ must ... set forth the inconsistencies in the record that lead him to reject the claimant's complaints." Jeffery v. Sec. of
Under these standards, we conclude that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's credibility determination. Harwood's treating physician performed a functional capacity assessment and determined that Harwood was capable of light work that did not involve repetitive upper extremity motions. An orthopedic surgeon, in turn, found that Harwood's upper extremity area was essentially normal with no localized tenderness or swelling, and determined that Harwood was capable of "light duty work" and should seek retraining for new job skills. Harwood told his physical therapist that he had only intermittent pain while working and no pain at rest or at night, and a physician who examined Harwood at the request of his workers' compensation carrier turned down Harwood's request for a slip stating that he could not work because the physician "really didn't think he was totally disabled from doing any type of job." At one point, Harwood was discharged from physical therapy for failing to reschedule missed appointments. See Thomas v. Sullivan, 928 F.2d 255, 259-60 (8th Cir.1991) (failure to follow prescribed treatment is relevant to substantial evidence analysis). Harwood's day-to-day activities further supported the ALJ's credibility determination. The record showed that Harwood could care for his two-year-old child while his wife worked; that he could perform light housekeeping chores such as the laundry as well as "light house cleaning and odd jobs around the house [for] 1 to 2 hours[,] four days a week;" and that he could draw cartoons for at least one hour at a time, three times a week. Although Harwood presented contrary evidence to support his claim, we conclude that the record amply supports the ALJ's credibility finding.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.