United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Julia Lemons, applied for disability benefits on June 4,
2013, alleging a disability onset date of September 1, 2009.
(Tr. at 12) After conducting a hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at
24) 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 Ms. Lemons has requested judicial
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Lemons had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of September 1, 2009.
(Tr. at 15) At Step Two, the ALJ found that Ms. Lemons has
the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease
(“DDD”) of the cervical spine, status
post-fusion, and osteoporosis of the lower back with chronic
pain. (Tr. at 15)
finding that Ms. Lemons's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 17), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Lemons had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with additional
limitations. Her job must require only occasional overhead
reaching; she was limited to semi-skilled work, where
interpersonal contact is routine, but superficial; the
complexity of tasks is learned by experience, involves
several variables, uses judgment within limits, and the
supervision required is routine, but detailed for non-routine
tasks. (Tr. at 17)
found that Ms. Lemons could perform her past relevant work,
which directed a finding of “not disabled.” (Tr.
at 22) The ALJ, however, made an alternative finding at Step
Five. Id. He relied on the testimony of a Vocational
Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Ms.
Lemons's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
she could perform at the light level, specifically, bench
worker and machine tender. (Tr. at 22) Based on that Step
Five determination, the ALJ found that Ms. Lemons was not
disabled. (Tr. at 24)
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)).
Lemons's Argument on Appeal
Lemons argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits because the ALJ gave
inadequate consideration to the opinion of the treating
physician, Rick Tate, M.D. Specifically, Ms. Lemons contends
that the ALJ should have given more weight to the Medical
Source Statement provided by Dr. Tate. She also argues that
Dr. Tate suggested that she would require a sit/stand option,
a restriction that the ALJ did not consider.
treating physician is a physician who provided a claimant
with medical treatment or evaluation and had an ongoing
treatment relationship with the claimant. 20 C.F.R. §
416.902. A treating physician's opinion should be granted
controlling weight if it is supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not
inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the
record. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th
Cir. 2015). An ALJ may grant less weight to a treating
physician's opinion, however, when that opinion conflicts
with other substantial medical evidence in the record.
Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1013-14 (8th Cir.
Lemons was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis,
radiculopathy, and osteoarthritis after a car wreck in 2008.
(Tr. at 307-311, 322-324) A review of x-rays of her cervical
spine on September 11, 2008 showed osteoarthritis with no
acute fracture or loss of alignment. (Tr. at 315) Another
cervical x-ray on November 12, 2008 showed moderate
degenerative changes with disc dessication at ¶ 5-C6.
(Tr. at 325) Ms. Lemons told Daniel Jones, M.D., on November
12, 2008 that her pain was controlled by hydrocodone. (Tr. ...