United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Benny Willyerd applied for disability benefits on March 26,
2013, alleging a disability onset date of October 21,
2008. (Tr. at 35) After conducting a hearing,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied his
application. (Tr. at 44) The Appeals Council denied his
request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Mr.
Willyerd filed this case seeking judicial review. The parties
have filed their briefs and the case is ripe for
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Willyerd had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his last denial of benefits on June 7,
2011. (TR. at 37) At Step Two, the ALJ found that Mr.
Willyerd has the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome, and limited vision. (Tr. at 38)
finding that Mr. Willyerd's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 38), the ALJ determined
that Mr. Willyerd had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, except that he
could not perform work that requires the climbing of ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds, with no more than occasional climbing of
ramps and stairs; he could only occasionally balance, kneel,
crouch, or crawl; he could not perform work that would expose
him to unprotected heights; he could perform work requiring
no more than frequent fingering and handling; and he could
perform work only where excellent vision is not required.
(Tr. at 39)
found that Mr. Willyerd could not perform his past relevant
work. (Tr. at 42) At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the
testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find
that, based on Mr. Willyerd's age, education, work
experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that he could perform at the light
level, specifically, janitor/cleaner and cafeteria attendant.
(Tr. at 43) Based on that Step Five determination, the ALJ
found that Mr. Willyerd was not disabled. (Tr. at 44)
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). Stated another way, 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)).
Willyerd's Argument on Appeal
Willyerd argues that substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ's RFC finding because the ALJ's credibility
analysis was flawed. Specifically, he argues that the ALJ
should have included a sit-stand option based on the
statement of a consultative examiner, Dr. Mark Tait, M.D.,
that Mr. Willyerd “would require periods of sitting
throughout the day.” (Docket entry #14 at 12, Tr. at
296). Mr. Willyerd speculates that this means he could not
stand or walk for six hours in a normal workday, and
therefore, could not perform work at the light level.
claimant's RFC represents the most he can do despite the
combined effects of all of his credible limitations, and it
must be based on all credible evidence. McCoy v.
Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). The ALJ
considered the record as a whole in arriving at the
medical evidence reveals that Mr. Willyerd had degenerative
disc disease at multiple levels in the lumbar spine. (Tr. at
284, 287, 312-313, 348) His treating doctors and the state
agency consultative doctors agreed on that diagnosis. (Tr. at
71, 82) Straight leg raises, however, were negative on March
19, 2012 and May 4, 2013 (Tr. at 280, 295) Dr. Tait found, in
a May 4, 2013 examination, that Mr. Willyerd could rise from
a sitting position without assistance, bend and squat without
difficulty, and that he had a full range of motion in his
spine. (Tr. at 295) He could tandem walk without problems and
could walk without an assistive device. Id. At that
examination, Mr. Willyerd denied low back pain and said he
was independent in activities of daily living. (Tr. at 294)
Imaging of the lumbar spine showed good alignment, normal
vertebral height, disc space within normal limits, and only
mild-to-moderate degenerative disc disease. Objective tests
showing mild-to-moderate conditions do not support a finding
of disability. Masterson v. Banrhart, 363 F.3d 731,
738-39 (8th Cir. 2004).
non-examining medical experts indicated that Mr. Willyerd
could perform medium work. (Tr. at 71, 83). Additionally, a
functional capacity examination completed on November 24,
2009, showed that Mr. Willyerd could perform medium work with
occasional lifting in the heavy classification. (Tr. at 369).
The ALJ gave these opinions some weight, but restricted Mr.