United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
FOR RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
Stone applied for social security disability benefits
alleging an onset date of March 1, 2013. (R. at 58). The
administrative law judge (ALJ) denied Ms. Stone's
applications after a hearing. (R. at 25). Ms. Stone requested
review by the Appeals Council and was denied. (R. at 1). The
ALJ's decision now stands as the Commissioner's final
decision, and Ms. Stone has requested judicial review.
The Commissioner's Decision
found that Ms. Stone had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine status
post-fusion surgery, major depressive disorder, and anxiety
disorder. (R. at 15). The ALJ further found that these
impairments left Ms. Stone with the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and
less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk in
intervals of 20 minutes for two hours in an eight-hour
workday; sit in intervals of 20 to 30 minutes for six hours
in an eight-hour workday; push and/or pull 10 pounds
occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; occasionally
stoop, crouch, climb, and balance with the assistance of a
cane; occasionally handle and finger objects; understand,
remember, and carry out simple job instructions; make simple
work-related judgments; respond appropriately to
co-workers/supervisors with occasional incidental contact
that is not necessary to perform the work; respond
appropriately to minor changes in usual work routine; and
avoid dealing with the public. (R. at 18). The RFC precluded
all of her past relevant work. (R. at 24). After taking
testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found that Ms.
Stone could perform the job of surveillance system monitor.
(R. at 24-25). The ALJ, therefore, held that Ms. Stone was
not disabled. (R. at 25).
Stone argues that the ALJ failed to identify sufficient jobs
to carry the burden of proving that she could perform a
significant number of jobs in the national economy. She also
contends that she could not perform the job of surveillance
system monitor because the position has changed significantly
since the last publishing of the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles in 1991; that a job with a Reasoning Level of 3
exceeds her mental RFC; that the RFC is internally
inconsistent and illogical; and that the ALJ failed to
account in the RFC for limitations in the range-of-motion in
her neck. Because the ALJ failed to properly account for
limitations in Ms. Stone's cervical range of motion, it
is unnecessary to reach her other arguments.
Court's task is to determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings. Prosch v.
Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but more than a mere
scintilla; it is “enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision.”
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009)
(citation omitted). In performing this analysis, the Court
will not only look to evidence supporting the
Commissioner's findings, but also evidence that detracts
from the decision. Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978,
983 (8th Cir. 2015).
identified Ms. Stone's degenerative disk disease of the
cervical spine as a severe impairment. (R. at 15). The ALJ
questioned Ms. Stone about her neck pain at the hearing. (R.
at 40, 42, 46-47). And medical records confirm that she had a
limited range of motion in her cervical spine. (R. at 441,
447, 839). The ALJ acknowledged various indicators of neck
pain in considering the medical evidence. (R. at 20).
Stone's allegations of neck pain were uncontradicted.
When the ALJ added a limitation to the hypothetical posed to
the VE that the person was restricted in her ability to look
down or up for extended periods, the VE testified that such
an individual could not perform the duties of a surveillance
system monitor. (R. at 51, 54). The Commissioner contends
that the limitation to sedentary work accounts for the
limitations on Ms. Stone's neck range of motion, but his
conclusion is unconvincing. The VE testified that limiting
the neck range of motion would eliminate the job of
surveillance system monitor. (R. at 51). Notably, the
Commissioner does not contest that Ms. Stone's range of
motion in her neck is limited, but argues that the limitation
is accounted for. The undersigned cannot agree with that
assessment and must therefore recommend that the decision be
reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
failed to identify jobs that a person with Ms. Stone's
limitation could perform in the light of her reduced range of
motion in her neck. For that reason, there is not substantial
evidence to support the ALJ's ...