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Lewis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

May 2, 2017

BRADLEY LEWIS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff Bradley Lewis applied for disability benefits on April 1, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of January 23, 2014. (Tr. at 93-96) After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied his application. (Tr. at 89) The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Mr. Lewis has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Mr. Lewis had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 82) At Step Two of the five-step process, the ALJ found that Mr. Lewis has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and morbid obesity. Id.

         After finding that Mr. Lewis's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 82), the ALJ determined that Mr. Lewis had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with additional limitations. He could: lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour workday; sit six hours in an eight-hour workday with a sit/stand option of sitting for one-hour intervals and standing for 30-minute intervals; and push and/or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. (Tr. at 83) He could not climb more than one or two stairs. Id.

         The ALJ found that Mr. Lewis was unable to perform his past relevant work. (Tr. at 87) At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Mr. Lewis's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform at the sedentary level. (Tr. at 88) Based on that Step Five determination, the ALJ held that Mr. Lewis was not disabled. (Tr. at 89)

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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 “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)(citations omitted). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. Even so, the Court cannot reverse the Commissioner's decision, “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)).

         B. Mr. Lewis's Argument on Appeal

         Mr. Lewis argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits because the ALJ's Step Five determination that he could perform other work in the national economy was error. He alleges that he cannot perform even limited sedentary work.

         Mr. Lewis only addresses his obesity in his brief, but the Court finds that the evidence supports the conclusion that no impairment, singly or in combination, precludes sedentary work.

         On November 14, 2011, Mr. Lewis underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left foot. (Tr. at 318) On December 18, 2013, he presented to Ruth Thomas, M.D., who found that he was doing well since surgery and was able to increase his mobility. Id. This contrasts with Dr. Ronald Smith's conclusion that Mr. Lewis “got very poor results” from the surgery. (Tr. at 321-323) Physician opinions that are inconsistent are entitled to less deference than they would receive in the absence of inconsistencies. Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 803 (8th Cir. 2005); Brown v. ...


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