United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
LYNN I. ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lynn I. Anderson has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs,
and the case is ready for decision.
Court’s function on review is to determine whether the
Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error.
Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1131(8th Cir.
2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Phillips v.
Astrue, 671 F.3d 699, 702 (8th Cir. 2012).
Anderson alleged that she became limited in her ability to
work due to pain in her wrists, incontinence, fatigue,
trouble walking, depression, loose joints, migraine
headaches, heartburn, hot flashes, dizziness, trouble
sleeping, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine. (SSA record at 14-15, 49, 96) After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) concluded that Ms.
Anderson had not been under a disability within the meaning
of the Social Security Act at any time from January 1, 2011,
her alleged onset date, through January 28, 2014, the date of
his decision. (Id. at 18) On June 4, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied the request for a review of the
ALJ’s decision, making the ALJ’s decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-4) Ms.
Anderson then filed her complaint initiating this appeal.
time of the hearing, Ms. Anderson was 58 years old and lived
with her disabled husband and her disabled son. (SSA record
at 27) She had a high school education and a couple of years
of college. (Id. at 27) She had been her
husband’s caregiver for the last nine years and also
cared for her son. (Id. at 28)
found that Ms. Anderson had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date and that her
osteoarthritis/degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
was a “severe” impairment. She did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments, however, that met
or equaled a Listed Impairment. (Id. at 14-15) He
judged that Ms. Anderson’s allegations regarding the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not entirely credible. (Id. at 16-18)
on his findings, the ALJ concluded that, during the relevant
time period, Ms. Anderson retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) for light work, except that she
could only occasionally stoop and crouch. (Id. at
15) After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Anderson could perform her past relevant
work as a cashier II, poultry eviscerator, or fast-food
worker. (Id. at 18) Thus, the ALJ concluded, Ms.
Anderson was not disabled. (Id. at 19)
Anderson maintains that substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ’s decision that she was not disabled. To
support her claim, Ms. Anderson relies on the report of the
agency’s consulting physician. She claims the ALJ erred
by rejecting the report and substituting his own lay opinion
about whether she was disabled. She also challenges the
evaluation of her credibility. (#12 pp. 3-9)
reasonable mind would accept the evidence as adequate to
support the ALJ’s decision because, here, the objective
medical evidence did not establish disabling symptoms. A
claimant must prove disability with objective medical
evidence; Ms. Anderson’s allegations are not enough. 42
U.S.C. § 423 (d)(5)(A). Under the applicable statute, a
person’s statement about pain or other symptoms,
standing alone, is not enough to establish disability;
rather, there must be some medically acceptable clinical or
laboratory diagnostic techniques that show a “medical
impairment that can reasonably be expected to produce the
pain or other symptoms alleged” that support a
conclusion that the applicant is disabled. Id.; See
also 20 C.F.R. § 416.908 (“A physical or mental
impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting
of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by your
statement of symptoms.”).
Anderson alleged numerous disabling symptoms including pain
in her wrists, incontinence, fatigue, trouble walking,
depression, loose joints, migraine headaches, heartburn, hot
flashes, dizziness, trouble sleeping, osteoarthritis, and
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; but her
allegations were not supported by medical evidence. According
to the record, the last time Ms. Anderson sought medical
treatment was in 2008, 32 months before she stopped working.
(SSA record at 245-52)
Anderson did not seek medical treatment during the relevant
time period. (Id. at 33-35) Her lack of medical
treatment suggests no disabling symptoms and undermines her
credibility. A reasonable mind would expect a person with
disabling physical symptoms to seek some type of medical
treatment. Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F.3d 1043, 1045
(8th Cir. 1997) (failing to seek medical assistance for
alleged physical and mental impairments contradicted
allegations of disabling conditions and supported unfavorable
decision); Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 419
(8th Cir. 1996) (complaints of disabling pain and functional
limitations are inconsistent with failure to take
prescription pain medication or seek regular medical
treatment); Rautio v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 176, 179 (8th
Cir. 1988) (“A failure to seek aggressive treatment is
not suggestive of disabling back pain.”).
only relevant medical evidence is an agency consultative
exam. The examiner reported moderate to severe limitations
for the body as a whole due to unstable, painful joints,
chronic stress incontinence, and chronic fatigue.
(Id. at 233) Agency medical experts Alice Davidson,
M.D., and Stephen Whaley, M.D., observed that the limitations
reported by the consultative examiner relied heavily on Ms.
Anderson’s subjective complaints and ...