United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
WENDY L. CHAPMAN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION INSTRUCTIONS
JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.
This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The District Judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.
Wendy Chapman ("Plaintiff") brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for review of the final decision of the Social Security Administration's denial of her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3). After careful review of the record, I recommend the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED and this matter be DISMISSED.
On June 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income - alleging disability since February 25, 2012, due to anxiety, depression, diabetes, and neuropathy. (Tr. 16, 151-64, 187) The agency denied both applications. (Tr. 88-100) An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted an administrative hearing on February 20, 2014. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. (Tr. 30-49)
On May 7, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff's impairments were not disabling. (Tr. 12-16) The ALJ assessed that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a reduced range of sedentary work. Specifically, he limited Ms. Chapman to work where: (1) interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; (2) the complexity of tasks can be learned by demonstration or repetition within 30 days, with few variables, and little judgment; and (3) the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 19)
Given these limitations, the ALJ determined Ms. Chapman was no longer able to perform her past relevant work as a machine operator and day care worker. (Tr. 24) Therefore, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth step of the sequential evaluation process to determine whether other jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform given her RFC. (Tr. 24) To make this finding, the ALJ relied on Medical-Vocational Guideline 201.28 as a framework and relied on the VE's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Based on this information, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could perform the jobs of "inspector-table level (DOT #739.687-182)" and "bonders (DOT #726.685-066)." Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 25) Plaintiff appealed, and subsequently the Appeals Council concluded on August 4, 2015, that no basis existed to review the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-5) The ALJ's decision then became the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of this Court's review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
In support of her Complaint, Plaintiff argues the ALJ (1) erred in evaluating her medical records; (2) incorrectly determined her neuropathy was not a "severe" impairment; (3) failed to perform a function-by-function analysis at the fifth sequential step; and (4) erred in evaluating her credibility. (Doc. No. 9)
Plaintiff makes multiple arguments based on the ALJ's assessment of her neuropathy. (Doc. No. 9) The ALJ noted Plaintiff's alleged disability due to neuropathy and discussed that she had been diagnosed by Kenneth Dill, M.D., with diabetes-related neuropathy starting on September 24, 2013. (Tr. 18, 300-01) The ALJ stated, "At [the time of her diagnosis], a physical examination showed normal range of motion of the back, no neurological deficits, and no cyanosis or edema in her extremities." ( Id. ) It is important to note that when Plaintiff was diagnosed with neuropathy on September 24, 2013, she was pregnant and had been taken off all medications. (Tr. 300) And, as the ALJ stated, "The record also shows no ongoing complaints of neuropathy prior to September 2013." (Tr. 18-19) Dr. Dill also only provided only conservative treatment, prescribing Gabapentin, with one refill permitted. (Tr. 18, 301)
Later, on January 13, 2014, Dan Riner, M.D., evaluated Plaintiff. (Tr. 292-98) Dr. Riner assessed her with depression and diabetes. (Tr. 293, 295) His treatment notes fail to support an allegation of "severe" neuropathy.
Prior examinations on September 6, 2012, and October 2, 2012, also fail to support Plaintiff's claims. They report no ongoing complaints of neuropathy and showed normal ranges or motion in her back and extremities, normal range of motion in all joints, and she did not exhibit any motor or sensory deficits. (Tr. 259-264) Further, during these two examinations, Plaintiff did not exhibit any limitations and had normal ...