United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Stacey Renee Beasley (“Beasley”), in her appeal
of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (defendant “Colvin”) to
deny her claim for Disability Insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income (SSI), contends the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by: (1)
failing to adequately develop the record regarding her
intellectual functioning; (2) incorrectly determining her
residual functional capacity (“RFC”); and (3)
posing inadequate hypothetical questions to the vocational
expert. The parties have ably summarized the medical records
and the testimony given at the administrative hearing
conducted on April 7, 2014. (Tr. 59-80). The Court has
carefully reviewed the record to determine whether there is
substantial evidence in the administrative record to support
Colvin's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
hearing: At the outset of the administrative hearing,
Armstrong testified she was 23 years old, with a ninth grade
education which included special education reading classes.
She stated she left school because of leg and back pain, and
an inability to read with comprehension. Beasley indicated
she attempted and failed to obtain a GED. She testified to
being able to do basic math. As for work history, she stated
she worked some in 2008 and tried to get a job at a local gas
station. According to her testimony, she has a driver's
license. She takes thyroid medicine and cholesterol pills,
and has no side effects. Beasley conceded that she failed to
properly take her medications in the past. She was 5'
4" and weighed 392 pounds at the hearing. She described
very limited daily activities, being able to sit for up to 30
minutes, stand for up to 10 minutes, and needing to recline
during most of the day. She stated she would need to lay down
every hour if she had a job. (Tr. 63-73).
posed a hypothetical question to the vocational expert,
asking her to assume a worker of Beasley's age and
educational level who could perform sedentary work but avoid
work requiring her to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and
avoid unprotected heights. Further, the ALJ asked the
vocational expert to assume the worker would have the ability
to perform work in a setting where interpersonal contact
would be incidental to the work performed, the complexity of
one to two-step tasks is learned and performed by rote, with
few variables, little judgment required, the supervision
required is simple, direct, and concrete, and the reasoning
level would not exceed one or two. The vocational expert
indicated such a worker could perform the jobs of assembler
or inspector. (Tr. 76-78).
amended her alleged onset date to July 3, 2008, so the
pertinent inquiry is whether she was disabled between that
date and November 6, 2014, when the ALJ issued his ruling.
records during the relevant period: Beasley was seen by
advanced practice nurse Debbie Wilhite
(“Wilhite”) in September 2008, complaining of
diarrhea and vomiting, and requesting a pregnancy test.
Beasley reported not having taken her thyroid medicine
“in several months.” (Tr. 330). Beasley returned
to Wilhite for lab work in November 2008 and returned again
in September 2009 complaining of heavy menstrual flow and
cramps. Wilhite recorded Beasley had been “very non
compliant with her Thyroid medication” and
“continues to gain weight.” (Tr. 324).
in September 2009 Beasley presented as a new patient to Dr.
Lorna Layton (“Layton”) at the NEA Baptist
Women's Clinic. Beasley complained of a continuous heavy
menstrual flow, and reported she had not been taking her
thyroid medicine. Layton diagnosed a simple cyst, stressed
the need for Beasley to take her prescribed medication,
recommended she continue iron supplements, and planned to see
if the cyst could be resolved with hormonal suppression
rather than surgery. (Tr. 342-344).
April 2012 Beasley was seen as a new patient by Dr. Kesha
James (“James”) at the East Arkansas Family
Health Center. James assessed her with suicidal ideation,
hypothyroidism, pica, anxiety/depression, and menorrhagia,
and referred Beasley for intervention with an in-house
counselor. Beasley reported she had not been on her thyroid
meds “in over 2-3 years.” (Tr. 369-370).
after seeing James, Beasley saw a social worker at Mid-South
Health Systems, who estimated her intelligence to be
borderline although her thought processes were logical, and
diagnosed her with major depressive disorder, recurrent,
nondependent alcohol and cannabis abuse, and obesity. The
social worker found Beasley's GAF to be 35. (Tr. 356,
2012 Beasley was seen again by James, who diagnosed her with
hypothyroidism, anxiety/depression, and hyperlipidemia. (Tr.
psychiatric evaluation was performed by Dr. Kelly Hair
(“Hair”) at Mid-South Health Systems in June
2012. Beasley reported to Hair that she left high school in
the ninth grade because she was being bullied about her
obesity, and that she was in regular classes and making good
grades. Hair diagnosed her with major depressive disorder and
nondependent alcohol and cannabis use, and wrote that
borderline intellectual functioning should be ruled out. (Tr.
saw James on the same day she was evaluated by Hair. Beasley
reported improvement after taking her thyroid and cholesterol
medication, and James diagnosed her with hypothyroidism and
morbid obesity. (Tr. 365-366).
consultative physical examination was performed in July 2012
by Dr. Jeffrey Barber (“Barber”). Barber noted
Beasley weighed 391 pounds, found her to have full range of
motion of her extremities and cervical and lumbar spine, was
unable to perform straight leg raises due to her size, and
found she could squat/arise from a squatting position with
difficulty. Barber diagnosed her with morbid obesity,
hypothyroidism, and depression, noting she had “severe
limitations in physical condition due to weight.” (Tr.
376-380). An x-ray of Beasley's spine performed on the
date of Barber's examination was normal. (Tr. 387).
complaining of breathing problems, was seen by Dr. Holli
Banks-Giles in November 2012 at the East Arkansas Family
Health Center. Beasley reported she had been out of thyroid
medicine, had been walking for exercise, and had lost 22
pounds. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, dyspnea,
anemia, dysuria, and morbid obesity. She was sent to the
emergency room where she was diagnosed with anemia. (Tr.
seen for a checkup at the Great River Charitable Clinic in
February 2013, she weighed 365 pounds and reported she had an