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Poindexter v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

July 31, 2015

TONY POINDEXTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

J. THOMAS RAY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Tony Poindexter ("Poindexter"), has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Both parties have filed Appeal Briefs ( docs. 11 and 12 ), and the issues are now joined and ready for disposition.

Poindexter argues that the ALJ's findings are not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.[1] Poindexter specifically contends that his residual functional capacity was not properly assessed, and he advances two reasons why it was not. He first maintains that he cannot perform the standing, walking, or sitting requirements of light work, which the ALJ found he is capable of performing. Second, Poindexter maintains that his subjective complaints regarding his work-related limitations were not properly evaluated because the ALJ discounted them simply because they were inconsistent with the medical evidence.

The ALJ is required to assess the claimant's residual functional capacity, which is a determination of "the most a person can do despite that person's limitations." See Brown v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 535, 538-39 (8th Cir. 2004). It is made using all of the relevant evidence in the record but must be supported by some medical evidence. See Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959 (8th Cir. 2010). As a part of making the assessment, the ALJ must evaluate the claimant's subjective complaints. See Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320 (8th Cir. 1984). The ALJ does so by considering the medical evidence as well as evidence relating to such matters as the claimant's daily activities; the duration, frequency, and intensity of his pain; the dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of his medication; precipitating and aggravating factors; and functional restrictions. See Id.

The ALJ found that Poindexter has severe impairments in the form of back pain, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, anxiety, depression, and pancreatitis. The ALJ assessed Poindexter's residual functional capacity and found that although he experiences "mild to moderate pain, " he can perform light work. See Transcript at 15.[2] In so finding, the ALJ gave some consideration to Poindexter's subjective complaints.

Substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the ALJ's assessment of Poindexter's residual functional capacity. Specifically, substantial evidence on the record as a whole supports the ALJ's finding that Poindexter can perform the standing, walking, or sitting requirements of light work. Substantial evidence on the record as a whole also supports the ALJ's evaluation of Poindexter's subjective complaints. Although the ALJ's evaluation of his complaints was not exhaustive, it was adequate.

With respect to Poindexter's ability to perform the standing, walking, or sitting requirements of light work, the Court notes that light work involves, among other things, a good deal of standing, walking, or sitting most of the time. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b). In Frankl v. Shalala, 47 F.3d 935, 937 (8th Cir. 1995), the Court of Appeals observed that "[l]ight work requires that a claimant be capable of standing or walking for a total of six hours out of an eight-hour workday."

The medical evidence reflects that Poindexter was seen at the Five Rivers Medical Center on three occasions between October of 2010 and May of 2012. See Transcript at 231-330, 335-347, 405-414. Although he presented complaining of problems unrelated to his ability to stand, walk, or sit, the findings and observations of the medical staff shed some light on his ability to perform those activities. The staff found that he had a full range of motion in his extremities, see Transcript at 243, 411; ambulated independently, see Transcript at 249, 339; and performed his activities of daily living independently, see Transcript at 411.

The medical evidence reflects that Dr. Roger Troxel, M.D., ("Troxel") saw Poindexter on nine occasions between October of 2010 and December of 2012 for various complaints. See Transcript at 349, 350, 351, 352, 364, 420, 447, 448, 449. Troxel diagnosed, among other things, osteoarthritis, pancreatitis, and chronic pain, and prescribed medication. It is difficult to glean much from his progress notes, but Troxel did repeatedly stress the importance of diet and exercise.

The medical evidence reflects that Poindexter was seen at St. Bernard's Medical Center in August of 2012 for his complaints of weakness, passing out, and swelling. See Transcript at 435-444. Edema and muscle weakness were diagnosed. He nevertheless reported no musculoskeletal symptoms, and an examination of his extremities revealed a normal range of motion.

The medical evidence reflects that Dr. Terry Hunt, M.D., ("Hunt") saw Poindexter on two occasions in August of 2012 for his complaints of abdominal pain. See Transcript at 423-425, 426-429. Hunt diagnosed pancreatitis and a liver disorder. Hunt observed, though, that Poindexter had no tingling or numbness and "no gait abnormalities." See Transcript at 423, 426.

The medical evidence reflects that, in February of 2012, Dr. Charles Friedman, M.D., ("Friedman") reviewed Poindexter's medical records. See Transcript at 355-362. Friedman opined that Poindexter could stand, walk, or sit for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday and was capable of performing light work. Friedman's opinion was subsequently affirmed by Dr. Sharon Keith, M.D. See Transcript at 402.

The medical evidence also reflects that, in March of 2012, Dr. Samuel Hester, Ph.D., ("Hester") performed a mental diagnostic evaluation of Poindexter. See Transcript at 365-374. Although the bulk of Hester's findings were understandably limited to assessing Poindexter's mental status, Hester did make findings that were germane to Poindexter's physical status. Hester diagnosed, among other things, a pain disorder associated with both medical and psychological factors and noted the following: "It is reportedly [Poindexter's] physical pain that keeps him from remaining employed." See Transcript at 372.

With respect to the non-medical evidence, Poindexter testified that he cannot walk "a long ways, " cannot sit "very long, " can only bend forward "a little bit, " and can neither run nor jump. See Transcript at 33-34. He testified that he cannot lift and carry more than twenty pounds and cannot push and pull "things like a grocery cart." See Transcript at 34. He additionally testified that he can "kind of kneel" and "probably get down slow" but otherwise cannot balance, climb, stoop, or crawl. Poindexter testified that a normal day consists of eating breakfast so that he can take his medication, going outside to feed his chickens, walking around to get "a little exercise, " calling his mother and grandmother, ...


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