United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
Renee Ford (“Ford”), 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), contends the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when he
(1) improperly dismissed Ford's first claim for DIB; (2)
failed to find her anxiety and migraine headaches were severe
impairments: (3) failed to find she met Listing 1.04A; (4)
erred in determining her residual functional capacity
(“RFC”); and (5) erred in assessing her
credibility. The parties have ably summarized the medical
records and the testimony given at the administrative hearing
conducted on November 7, 2013. (Tr. 30-52). 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). We find merit
in one of the arguments. Specifically, Ford is correct that the
ALJ erred in failing to find her migraine headaches to be a
severe impairment. The case must be remanded for further
to find Migraine Headaches a Severe Impairment:
2, the ALJ found Ford had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease and disorder of the left foot. The
ALJ specifically cited the following medically determinable
impairments and deemed them non-severe: hearing loss in the
left ear, congenital heart disease, and depressive and
anxiety disorders. (Tr. 17). The ALJ did not mention migraine
headaches in his Step 2 analysis. Elsewhere in his Decision,
the ALJ noted Ford's assertion of migraine headaches
three to four times a week. (Tr. 20).
urges the ALJ should have found her migraine headaches to be
a severe impairment, and she cites her testimony as well as
the medical records from treating physician David Oberlander
(“Oberlander”), from the Chambers Memorial
Hospital Clinic (“CMHC”), and from the Dardanelle
Women's Clinic to support her claim. A review of these
May 13, 2011 CMHC diagnoses Ford with headaches. (Tr. 515).
June 11, 2012 CMHC diagnoses Ford with migraine headaches.
August 10, 2012 CMHC diagnoses Ford with headaches. (Tr.
December 19, 2012 Oberlander, a neurologist, describes
Ford's chief complaint as “neck pain with
headaches, ” noting she alleges “episodic
migraine type headaches with profound irritability to bright
lights and loud noises. . .” Oberlander assesses Ford
to have a relevant neurological history of migraine headaches
with very strong discogenic nature with severe neck pain.
Oberlander prescribes Mobic, Soma, Tylenol #3, and Phenergan.
December 22, 2012 Ford cites the medical record from this
visit to the Dardanelle Women's Clinic to support her
argument, but this document is largely illegible. The report
appears to document that Ford had a history of a cervical
laminectomy and suffers from persistent neck pain, and that
she sees Oberlander for pain management. (Tr. 564).
August 22, 2013 Oberlander sees Ford, again noting the chief
complaint of neck pain with headaches and a history of
migraine headaches. (Tr. 582-583).
October 30, 2013 Ford underwent left foot surgery, and her
migraines were noted by the surgeon. (Tr. 635). In addition,
notes from the Dardanelle Women's Clinic reflect a
diagnosis of migraines on September 27 and October 25, 2013.
November 13, 2013 Ford is seen by Oberlander, who again lists
her chief complaint to be neck pain and headaches, and notes
her history of migraine headaches. (Tr. 641).
severe impairment is one that is more than slight and which
affects a claimant's ability to do his or her basic work
activities. Householder v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 191
(8th Cir. 1988). Ford's testimony of recent
migraine headaches three to four times a week, one of which
lasted two days, with vision problems and vomiting, satisfies
the definition of a severe impairment, if the testimony is
believed. A key feature supporting our decision is the
corroborating medical notes from treating physicians
establishing a longstanding diagnosis and treatment for
argues substantial evidence supports the ALJ's treatment
of the migraines because Oberlander characterized Ford's
headaches as “episodic, ” there was an absence of
medical findings of functional limitations, and Ford never