United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
E Bench, Plaintiff, represented by Laura J. McKinnon,
McKinnon Law Firm.
Security Administration, Defendant, represented by Stacey
Elise McCord, U.S. Attorney's Office & Stuart G. Lipke,
Social Security Administration.
THOMAS RAY, Magistrate Judge.
following recommended disposition was prepared for U.S.
District Judge Susan W. Wright. 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. 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. If no objections are filed, Judge
Wright may adopt the recommended disposition without
independently reviewing all of the record evidence.
for Recommended Disposition
Ellen Bench seeks judicial review of the denial of her
application for social security disability
benefits. Bench's last full-time job was at
a fast food restaurant. She applied for disability benefits
after being terminated. She based disability on
osteoarthritis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, ulcers, an
enlarged heart, high blood pressure, and swelling in the
legs, ankles, and feet.
Commissioner's decision. After considering the
application, the ALJ identified severe impairments:
musculoskeletal disorder (back disorder, lumbar spine
degenerative joint disease, and osteoarthritis),
musculoskeletal disorder (degenerative joint disease and
osteoarthritis/tenosynovitis in both knees), endocrine
disorder (diabetes mellitus with lower extremity edema),
obesity, mental disorder (mood disorder, depression), and
mental disorder (personality disorder not otherwise
specified). The ALJ determined the impairments
limit Bench to unskilled sedentary work. After consulting a
vocational expert, the ALJ determined jobs exist that Bench
can do. The ALJ concluded that Bench is not
disabled and denied the application.
the Appeals Council denied review,  the ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision for the
purpose of judicial review. Bench filed this case
to challenge the decision.
argues that the ALJ erred: (1) in evaluating her credibility;
and (2) in assessing her RFC. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court concludes that Bench's second argument
reviewing a decision denying an application for disability
benefits, the court must determine whether substantial
evidence supports the decision and whether the ALJ made a
legal error. For substantial evidence to exist, a
reasonable mind must accept the evidence as adequate to
support the determination that Bench can do unskilled
work "involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time
and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket
files, ledgers, and small tools." The ALJ excluded
climbing, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, and limited
balancing and stooping. The ALJ required work involving
simple, routine, repetitive tasks; incidental interpersonal
contact with coworkers and supervisors; no contact with
public; and simple, direct, concrete
determining Bench's ability to work, the ALJ questioned a
vocational expert about available work. The vocational expert
identified assembler and production worker as available
jobs. Bench claims the ALJ should have
obtained supplemental vocational evidence.
the ALJ's RFC did not preclude Bench from
reaching. However, after the administrative
hearing, Bench underwent a consultative physical examination
from Dr. John Dobbs. Among other things, Dr. Dobbs completed
a "Medical Source Statement" limiting Bench from
any reaching. Dr. Dobbs wrote that Bench's
"bad knees" supported the reaching
limitation. In his decision, the ALJ discounted
Dr. Dobbs' reaching limitation because it was "not
supported by objective findings[.]" Moreover, the VE
was not asked any ...