United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Novella Shawntay Wycoff, applied for disability benefits on
February 24, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of
February 6, 2012. (Tr. at 11). After conducting a hearing,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her
application. (Tr. at 21). The Appeals Council denied her
request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Wycoff
has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Wycoff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the onset date of February 6, 2012. (Tr. at
13). The ALJ found at Step Two that Wycoff had the following
severe impairments: scoliosis of the thoracolumbar spine,
major depressive disorder, and hypothyroidism. Id.
At Step Three, the ALJ determined that Wycoff's
impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr.
at 14). Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined
that Wycoff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work except for the
following limitations: 1) stand and walk not more than 2
hours in a 8-hour workday; 2) no climbing of ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds; 3) no more than occasionally climbing ramps and
stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; 4) no unprotected heights or hazards in the
workplace; 5) interpersonal contact is incidental to the work
performed, complexity of 1 to 2 step tasks is learned and
performed by rote, with few variables and little judgment,
and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete;
and 6) work must be limited to Specific Vocational
Preparation (“SVP”) 1 or 2 jobs that can be
learned within 30 days. (Tr. at 15). Next, the ALJ found that
Wycoff is not capable of performing past relevant work. (Tr.
at 19). Evaluating testimony from the Vocational Expert
(“VE”), the ALJ held that based on Wycoff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that she could
perform. (Tr. at 20). Consequently, the ALJ found that Wycoff
was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this
context means less than a preponderance but more than a
scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th
Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
ALJ's decision.” Id. (citation omitted).
The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports
a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision,
however, “merely because substantial evidence exists
for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater,
108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v.
Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).
Wycoff's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She contends that the
ALJ erred in his RFC assessment by holding that her shoulder
pain did not impose significant limitations on her ability to
work. She also asserts that the ALJ did not give the proper
amount of weight to the opinion of Dr. Roy Watson, M.D., the
consultative examiner. The medical evidence simply does not
support Wycoff's complaints of disabling pain related to
her shoulder, and the opinions of the medical providers were
given the proper amount of weight.
presented to Metcalfe Family Physicians on February 20, 2012
complaining of mid-back pain and pain in her left shoulder.
(Tr. at 293). She had full range of motion and normal grip
strength, and the doctor did not diagnose a shoulder problem.
April 28, 2012, Wycoff was examined by state physician Dr.
Roy Watson, M.D. (Tr. at 300). Her chief complaint was
scoliosis, and notably, she did not mention shoulder pain. He
opined that she could walk half a mile, sit and stand for 5
to 10 minutes, pick up and carry 10 pounds, and manipulate
small objects with her hands. (Tr. at 301). These
restrictions are the most limiting in the record. Dr.
Watson's restrictions are not supported by his clinical
exam, in which he found normal grip strength, no range of
motion deficits, normal posture and gait. Id. He
also noted she could get up and down from the exam table with
no problem. (Tr. at 300). An ALJ may discount or disregard
the opinion of a examining physician when other medical
assessments are supported by better or more thorough medical
evidence, or where a physician renders inconsistent opinions
that undermine the credibility of the opinions. Miller v.
Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015).
August 15, 2012, Wycoff saw Stephanie Whitlock, A.R.N.P., and
did not complain of shoulder pain. She did complain of back
pain. (Tr. at 335). Ms. Whitlock found normal range of motion
and no motor or sensory deficits. (Tr. at 336). Wycoff was
discharged in good condition. Id.
August 27, 2012, Dr. Carlos Hernandez, M.D., a state-agency
physician, reviewed the records and concluded that Dr.
Watson's restrictive RFC assessment was not supported by
medical evidence. (Tr. at 85). He confirmed a ...