United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Sherry Parker applied for disability benefits on October 10,
2013, and for supplemental security income on October 11,
2013. (Tr. at 11) She alleged that she became disabled on
July 13, 2013. Id. Her claims were denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Id. Ms. Parker filed a
request for hearing on May 21, 2014. Id.
Unfortunately, Ms. Parker died in a car accident on November
3, 2014. Id. Her children were substituted as the
real parties of interest. After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied the
application. (Tr. at 21) The Appeals Council denied the
request for review, so the ALJ's decision now stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Parker's
heirs have requested judicial review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Parker had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of July 13, 2013. (Tr.
at 13) At Step Two of the five-step process, the ALJ found
that, during the relevant time, Ms. Parker had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc and joint disease
affecting the cervical spine that required a C5-6 fusion in
the remote past, osteoarthritis, evidence to support
congestive heart failure, an organic mental disorder, an
affective disorder, and an anxiety disorder. (Tr. at 14) Ms.
Parker's essential hypertension and obesity were severe
when considered in combinations with her other physical
finding that Ms. Parker's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 14), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Parker had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work at the unskilled
level with additional limitations. She could understand,
remember, and carry out only simple work-related tasks and
make simple work-related decisions; perform tasks learned by
rote; perform jobs requiring little judgment and few changes
in the work place, where interpersonal contacts are
incidental; and perform jobs where requiring simple, direct,
and concrete supervision. (Tr. at 15)
found that Ms. Parker was unable to perform her past relevant
work. (Tr. at 19) At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the
testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find
that, based on Ms. Parker's age, education, work
experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that she could perform at the light
level. (Tr. at 21) Based on that Step Five determination, the
ALJ held that Ms. Parker was not disabled. Id.
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). The Court must consider not only evidence that
supports the Commissioner's decision, but also, evidence
that supports a contrary outcome, but cannot reverse the
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)).
Arguments on Appeal
argues that the RFC finding is not supported by substantial
evidence and that the ALJ's question to the VE failed to
account for Ms. Parker's obesity. Plaintiff further avers
that the VE identified a job that fell outside the
limitations included in the hypothetical posed to the VE.
claimant's RFC represents the most he or she can do
despite the combined effects of all of limitations that are
supported by the evidence. The ALJ must consider all credible
evidence. McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 614 (8th
Cir. 2011). In determining a claimant's RFC, the ALJ has
a duty to establish, by competent medical evidence, the
physical and mental activity that the claimant could perform
in a work setting. The ALJ must give appropriate
consideration to all of a claimant's impairments, both
severe and non-severe. Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d
413, 418 (8th Cir. 1996). Here, the Plaintiff contends that
the ALJ's RFC finding did not account for moderate
difficulty with standing, walking, lifting, and carrying
found by Roger Troxel, M.D., in his consultative examination
Dr. Troxel did observe some functional limitations, he also
found negative straight-leg raise; no muscle spasm, muscle
weakness, or muscle atrophy; and normal gait and
coordination. (Tr. at 534-538) He observed decreased
range-of-motion in the shoulder, hip, and cervical and lumbar
spine. Id. But, he found normal range-of-motion in
Ms. Parker's elbows, wrists, hands, knees, and ankles.
Id. Dr. Troxel found no significantly decreased
ability to sit, handle, finger, see, or speak. Id.
medical records include no treating-physician opinions
relating to Ms. Parker's ability to walk, lift, or carry.
Likewise, there is no objective medical testing on her back
and neck that would support a more limited RFC than found by
the ALJ. Plaintiff bore the burden of proving disability
through the first four steps of the evaluative process.
Moore v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009).
A claimant “has the responsibility for presenting the
strongest case possible.” Thomas v. Sullivan,
928 F.2d 255, 260 (8th Cir. 1991).
relied on Dr. Troxel's opinion of Ms. Parker's
physical functionality because the claimant did not provide
contrary medical evidence. Dr. Troxel's clinical testing
revealed only moderate limitations. Objective tests showing
mild-to-moderate conditions do not support a ...