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Myers v. Colvin

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

April 6, 2016

Veronica Tess Myers Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant.

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          J. THOMAS RAY, Magistrate Judge.

         Instructions

         The following recommended disposition was prepared for U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker. A party to this dispute may file written objections to this recommendation. An objection must be specific and state the factual and/or legal basis for the objection. An objection to a factual finding must identify the finding and the evidence supporting the objection. Objections must be filed with the clerk of the court no later than 14 days from the date of this recommendation.[1] The objecting party must serve the opposing party with a copy of an objection. Failing to object within 14 days waives the right to appeal questions of fact.[2] If no objections are filed, Judge Baker may adopt the recommended disposition without independently reviewing all of the record evidence.

         Reasoning for Recommended Disposition

         Veronica Tess Myers seeks judicial review of the denial of her application for social security disability benefits.[3] Myers last worked as a sales representative. She stopped working at age 37 because her employer went out of business.[4] A few years later, she applied for disability benefits and claimed she has been disabled since she stopped working. She based disability on hypertension, diastolic heart dysfunction, and osteoarthritis.[5]

         The Commissioner's decision. The Commissioner's ALJ identified hypertension and arthritis as severe impairments.[6] The ALJ determined Myers can do some sedentary work.[7] Because a vocational expert identified available sedentary work, the ALJ concluded that Myers is not disabled and denied the application.[8]

         After the Commissioner's Appeals Council denied review, [9] the ALJ's decision became a final decision for the purpose of judicial review.[10] Myers filed this case to challenge the decision.[11] The recommended disposition explains why the court should affirm the decision.

         Myers's allegations. Myers contends the ALJ erred by failing to identify left ventricular dysfunction and ischemia as severe impairments. She claims a treating physician medical statement deserved controlling weight. She maintains the ALJ failed to resolve a conflict between the vocational evidence and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). For these reasons, she argues, substantial evidence does not support the decision.[12]

         Applicable legal principles. When reviewing a decision denying an application for social security disability benefits, the court must determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision and whether the ALJ made a legal error.[13] For substantial evidence to exist, a reasonable mind must accept the evidence as adequate to support the determination that Myers can do some sedentary work and work exists that she can do[14]

         Sedentary work "involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools."[15] The ALJ placed the following limitations on sedentary work:

(1) work permitting a worker to stand for 10 minutes after sitting for one hour;
(2) work permitting a worker to elevate the legs for up to 45 degrees;
(3) work requiring no more than frequent fingering and handling;
(4) work involving occasional bending, stooping, crouching, kneeling, balancing, and crawling; and
(5) a climate controlled work environment.[16]

         For the following reasons, a reasonable mind will accept the evidence as adequate to show Myers can work with these limitations:

1. The record establishes no very serious functional limitation preventing sedentary work. Sedentary work "represents a significantly restricted range of work. Individuals who are limited to no more than sedentary work by their medical impairments have very serious functional limitations."[17]
Medical evidence shows Myers was evaluated for complaints of chest pain in November 2007. Initial diagnostic testing was consistent with left ventricular diastolic dysfunction[18] and mild to moderate ischemia.[19] A cardiologist recommended cardiac catherization.[20] Myers sought a second opinion.[21] A second cardiologist agreed.[22]
Cardiac catherization showed normal coronary arteries, left dominant circulation, and normal left ventricular function.[23] Myers sought no further cardiac care. She continued to work until January 2008 when her employer went out of business. Under these circumstances, no basis existed for identifying left ventricular dysfunction and ischemia as severe impairments. The results of the cardiac catherization and the lack of cardiac care suggests no very serious functional limitation preventing sedentary work.
Myers has been treated for hypertension since at least November 2007. Treatment records show medication controls her hypertension. During her agency exam, Myers complained about arthritis and morning stiffness, but her exam was normal.[24] Remote diagnostic imaging showed arthritic change in the left shoulder, [25] but Myers had a full range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, ankles, neck and low back.[26] The agency examiner attributed hypertension to diastolic dysfunction.[27] The exam showed no very serious functional limitation preventing sedentary work.
2. The treating physician statement deserved little weight. According to a treating physician, Myers is "significantly limited in her ability to seek gainful employment because of her conditions."[28] Myers complains because the ALJ gave the statement little weight.[29] A treating physician's medical statement deserves controlling weight if it is supported and consistent with the other substantial evidence.[30]
The physician's statement is not supported. The physician treated Myers for hypertension. Treatment records document five medical visits in 18 months. During that time, Myers reported few complaints.[31] Prescribed treatment was successful. The physician documented one negative medical finding - knee and low back pain on the last visit.[32] In contrast, the physician reported disabling symptoms due to hypertension, left ...

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