United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Sidney Nowden (“Nowden”) began the case at bar by
filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). In the
complaint, he challenged the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), a decision based upon findings
made by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
maintains that the ALJ's findings are not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole because
Nowden's residual functional capacity was not properly
assessed. It is Nowden's position that
“[t]here is no medical evidence addressing [his]
ability to function in the workplace, other than the
non-examining state agency physicians' opinions, ”
see Document 11 at CM/ECF 9, and the ALJ did not
rely upon those opinions in assessing Nowden's residual
is required to assess the claimant's residual functional
capacity, which is a determination of “the most a
person can do despite that person's limitations.”
See Brown v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 535, 538-39
(8th Cir. 2004). The assessment is made using all
of the relevant evidence in the record, but the assessment
must be supported by some medical evidence. See Wildman
v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959 (8th Cir. 2010). As a
part of making the assessment, the ALJ is required to
evaluate the claimant's credibility regarding his
subjective complaints. See Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211 (8th Cir. 2001). The ALJ makes that
evaluation by considering the medical evidence and evidence
of the claimant's “daily activities; duration,
frequency, and intensity of pain; dosage and effectiveness of
medication; precipitating and aggravating factors; and
functional restrictions.” See Id. at 1218
[citing Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320
(8th Cir. 1984)].
August 22, 2012, Nowden filed an application seeking
supplemental security income payments. He alleged in the
application that he is disabled on account of his right leg
pain, hypertension, and neuropathy. His testimony during the
administrative hearing was devoted primarily to his right
knee and right wrist impairments, and his brief in this case
is devoted entirely to those impairments. Accordingly, the
Court will only consider the evidence relevant to
Nowden's right knee and right wrist impairments.
summary of the medical evidence relevant to Nowden's
right knee and right wrist impairments reflects that on
January 22, 2010, he was seen for a consultative physical
examination in connection with a prior application for
disability benefits. See Transcript at 245-250. The
attending physician recorded Nowden's medical history and
noted, inter alia, that Nowden had undergone surgery
in 1994 to repair a rupture to the Achilles tendon in his
right foot. A physical examination revealed that although he
had an abnormal gait, he had normal range of motion in all of
his extremities. He also had normal grip strength in both of
his wrists. The diagnoses included one of “right lower
leg pain, ” but his disability was characterized as
“minimal.” See Transcript at 249.
December 19, 2011, Nowden was seen by a registered nurse
practitioner for complaints of, inter alia, pain and
soreness in Nowden's right wrist and right knee.
See Transcript at 257-258. No abnormal findings were
made, although Nowden was diagnosed with “diffuse
arthralgias, ” i.e., joint pain. He was
prescribed medication and given injections for his pain.
October 26, 2012, and again on December 3, 2012, Nowden was
seen by Dr. Bryan Raymundo, M.D., (“Raymundo”)
for complaints of, inter alia, right knee pain.
See Transcript at 262, 274-278. A physical
examination revealed that Nowden had right knee
“crepitus on flexion, ” a limited range of
motion, and an inability to bear much weight on his right
leg. See Transcript at 274. An X-ray of his right
knee revealed evidence of “mild tricompartmental
osteoarthritis.” See Transcript at 262. He was
prescribed medication and referred to Dr. James Pollard,
November 28, 2012, Nowden was seen by Dr. Don Ball, M.D.,
(“Ball”) for a consultative examination.
See Transcript at 267-271. Ball recorded
Nowden's medical history and noted Nowden's reports
of pain and weakness in his right leg and arthritis in his
right knee. A physical examination revealed that although he
walked with a limp and could only take two steps on his toes,
he exhibited normal range of motion in all of his extremities
and his posture and coordination were within normal limits.
He also exhibited normal grip strength in both of his wrists.
Ball's diagnoses included a diagnosis of an “old
surgical repair [of Nowden's right] Achilles
tendon.” See Transcript at 271.
January 10, 2013, Pollard saw Nowden for an evaluation of his
right knee pain. See Transcript at 316-317. Pollard
recorded Nowden's medical history and noted, inter
alia, that Nowden had been having right knee pain for
six months, the pain increased with weightbearing, and he
sometimes walked with a cane. Pollard performed a physical
examination and reviewed a series of X-rays. His impression
was as follows: “[r]ight knee pain, exact etiology is
not clear.” See Transcript at 317. Pollard
prescribed medication, instructed Nowden on rehabilitation
exercises, and ordered MRI testing of his right knee.
testing of Nowden's right knee was performed on January
16, 2013. See Transcript at 335-336. The results of
the testing revealed a “[t]iny lateral meniscus tear,
” some “loose body in the posterior medial
compartment, ” “[m]oderate to severe chondral
thinning in the patellofemoral compartment with subjacent
edematous marrow in the patella, ” “[s]prain of
the medial collateral ligament, ” and “[p]atellar
tendinosis.” See Transcript at 335.
saw Nowden again on February 19, 2013, and February 28, 2013.
See Transcript at 313-315, 309-311. Although Nowden
could bear weight on his right leg, he continued to complain
of right knee pain. Pollard opined that the pain was
“probably secondary to early osteoarthritis of the
patellofemoral joint.” See Transcript at 314.
After discussing several treatment options with Pollard at
both visits, Nowden elected to proceed with arthroscopy of
his right knee.
March 5, 2013, Pollard performed arthroscopic surgery on
Nowden's right knee. See Transcript at 327-331.
Pollard saw Nowden for at least two post-operative
examinations and noted that his pain had largely subsided.
See Transcript at 340-341. At a March 15, 2013,
post-operative examination, Pollard noted the following:
“[Nowden] is doing well. His knee pain is better since
surgery. He is ambulating full weight-bearing on the right
leg without lateral aids.” See Transcript at
341. He was instructed to “work on a home program of
knee rehabilitations exercises” and continue taking
medication. See Transcript at 341. At an April 12,
2013, post-operative examination, Pollard noted the
following: [Nowden] is doing very well with his right knee.
His has minimal pain in the right knee.” See
Transcript at 340. He exhibited full range of motion in his
right knee, although he did have some palpable crepitus with
active movement. Pollard opined that Nowden could
“advance activities as tolerated.” See
Transcript at 340.
sought medical attention again for the pain in his right knee
on July 20, 2013, and on December 5, 2013. See
Transcript at 500-501 (07/20/2013), 349-350 (12/05/2013). A
physical examination on July 20, 2013, revealed [right] knee
crepitus on flexion and extension, ” limited range of
motion, and an inability to bear “too much
weight.” See Transcript at 500. He was
prescribed medication and, at the second presentation, given
a Kenelog injection.
6, 2014, and again on May 8, 2014, Nowden was seen by a
registered nurse practitioner for complaints of pain and
soreness in his right knee and right wrist. See
Transcript at 347-349, 345-347. A physical examination
revealed edema in both joints, and he was given medication.
An x-ray of his right wrist revealed “[a]dvanced loss
of joint space in the radiocarpal region.” See
Transcript at 380. The interpreting physician also noted the