United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
LINDA S. GAGE PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Linda S. Gage (“Gage”) began the case at bar by
filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). In the
complaint, she 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 and offers two
reasons why. Gage first maintains that her impairments
meet or equal Listing 1.02, and the ALJ erred at step three
of the sequential evaluation process when she failed to so
three, the ALJ is required to determine whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
See Raney v. Barnhart, 396 F.3d 1007 (8th
Cir. 2005). The determination is solely a medical
determination, see Cockerham v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d
492 (8th Cir. 1990), and the claimant bears the
burden of showing that her impairments meet or equal a listed
impairment, see Pyland v. Apfel, 149 F.3d 873
(8th Cir. 1998).
1.02 encompasses a major dysfunction of a joint and is
characterized by “gross anatomical deformity ... and
chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of
motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s) and
findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint
space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the
affected joint(s).” See Listing 1.02. The
listing additionally requires the involvement of one major
peripheral weight-bearing joint resulting in an inability to
ambulate effectively as defined in 1.00B2b or the involvement
of one peripheral joint in each upper extremity resulting in
an inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively
as defined in 1.00B2c.
inability to ambulate effectively means “an extreme
limitation of the ability to walk.” See
Listing 1.00B2b. It includes, but is not limited to, such
things as the inability to walk without the use of a walker
or the inability to walk without the use of two crutches or
inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively
means “an extreme loss of function of both upper
extremities.” See Listing 1.00B2c. It
includes, but is not limited to, such things as the inability
to prepare a simple meal and feed oneself and the inability
to take care of personal hygiene.
alleges that she became disabled on December 1, 2013, as a
result of impairments that include back problems, diabetes,
left arm pain, and feet problems. In her brief, she
represents that her ambulatory limitation is caused by
“chronic back and heel pain.” See Docket
Entry 11 at CM/ECF 13. She also represents in her brief that
her upper extremity limitation is caused by “an
impingement of her left shoulder” and the pain the
impingement causes in her neck, back, and shoulder.
See Docket Entry 11 at CM/ECF 7, 13.
medical evidence relevant to Gage's ambulatory and upper
extremity impairments reflects that she has sought medical
attention for her back pain at irregular intervals. She
underwent testing in January of 2010, and the results
revealed, in part, the following: “[t]he bony
structures in the T-spine show a little bit of mild
osteoarthritic type changes.” See Transcript
at 321. In March of 2013, she presented to a medical clinic
complaining of back pain. See Transcript at 275-278.
She represented that the pain radiated along her right side.
Her vital signs were taken and reflected, inter
alia, that she was sixty-four inches tall and weighed
174 pounds, or had a Body Mass. Index (“BMI”) of
29.71. No joint swelling or tenderness was noted, and no
spinal tenderness was noted. A backache was assessed. In June
of 2014, Gage was seen again for back pain. See
Transcript at 494/507-509. She denied numbness and tingling
but reported that the pain was exacerbated by standing and
bending. She reported pain upon lumbar flexion, extension,
and rotation, and her lumbar spine was tender to palpation.
Physical therapy was recommended, as was a home exercise
program that included stretching. She never completed the
therapy program, though, because she was discharged from it
because of her non-attendance.
has occasionally sought medical attention for leg pain and
restless leg syndrome. The record indicates that she did so
on at least three occasions prior to June of 2014.
See Transcript at 334, 332-333, 315-316. No
significant findings were recorded. In June of 2014, she
presented to a medical clinic complaining of leg pain.
See Transcript at 510-513. Her vital signs were
taken and reflected, inter alia, that she was
sixty-four inches tall and weighed 177 pounds, or had BMI of
30.38. A musculoskeletal examination was abnormal. The
assessment included a backache and diabetes mellitus.
Medication was prescribed. Gage was seen for depression in
August of 2014. See Transcript at 452-453. The
report from that examination is noteworthy because the nurse
practitioner noted that Gage had pain in her calves when
walking any distance.
has on occasion sought medical attention for heel pain. In
October of 2007, she presented to a medical clinic
complaining of a burning sensation in her feet. See
Transcript at 323-324. It was attributed to diabetic
neuropathy, and she was prescribed medication. She did not
seek medical attention for her heel pain again until February
of 2013. See Transcript at 282-284. No significant
findings were recorded, but diabetes mellitus was again
has on occasion sought medical attention for pain and
swelling in her right shoulder. In September of 2006, she
presented to a medical clinic complaining of right shoulder
pain. See Transcript at 339. A strain/spasm in her
rhomboid muscles was assessed, and medication was prescribed.
She did not seek medical attention for her right shoulder
again until September of 2014. See Transcript at
498-499. At that time, she exhibited a decreased range of
motion in her shoulder and some tenderness but had no
effusion or swelling. Joint pain was diagnosed.
has also sought medical attention for pain in her left
shoulder, and a left shoulder impingement has been noted.
See Transcript at 253. In October of 2012, she
presented to a medical clinic complaining of pain in her left
shoulder. See Transcript at 291-294. She reported
that a recent “steroid shot” had helped, as did
over-the-counter ibuprofen. See Transcript at 291. A
musculoskeletal examination revealed joint pain and stiffness
but no joint swelling. Joint pain and diabetes mellitus were
assessed. Gage declined an x-ray and attributed the pain to
“just arthritis and working.” See
Transcript at 294. Mobic was prescribed.
February of 2013 and again in March of 2013, Gage presented
to a medical clinic complaining of left shoulder pain.
See Transcript at 282-284, 390-392. No joint
swelling or tenderness was noted in February of 2013, but
joint pain localized in her left shoulder was assessed. In
March of 2013, the attending physician recorded Gage's
report that “[h]er pain radiates down to the elbow at
times” and her pain “increased with overhead
activity, behind the back activities, and when she sleeps on
her left side.” See Transcript at 391. Gage
was observed to have a decreased range of motion in her left
shoulder. A treatment plan included therapy and a home
exercise program that included stretching and strengthening
February and March of 2014, Dr. James Ameika, M.D.,
(“Ameika”) saw Gage in connection with medical
imaging testing and to discuss the occulsion, or blockage, he
found in her right and left internal carotid arteries.
See Transcript at 356-359, 363-367. The findings
contained in his reports are relevant to her ambulatory and
upper extremity impairments in the following four respects.
First, he observed that she had “no weakness involving
either of her upper or lower extremities.” See
Transcript at 356. Second, a musculoskeletal examination
revealed no evidence of arthralgia, joint pain, joint
swelling, limb pain, or limb swelling. Third, an examination
of her extremities revealed the following: “pedal
pulses are within normal limits, ... no clubbing, edema was
not present, showed no cyanosis, cellulitis was not present,
...” See Transcript at 359. Fourth, a
neurological examination revealed, inter alia, that
she had no difficulty walking but had a normal gait.
three, the ALJ considered whether Gage's impairments meet
or equal several of the listings. The ALJ specifically
considered whether Gage's impairments meet or equal
Listing 1.02. The ALJ found that they do not meet the listing
because “the available medical evidence did not
demonstrate the specified criteria required of the
listing.” See Transcript at 15. In so finding,
the ALJ observed that “the evidence does not
demonstrate that the claimant has the degree of difficulty in
performing fine and gross movements as defined in
1.00B2c.” See Transcript at 15. The ALJ made
no observation with regard to whether Gage's impairments
give rise to an inability to ambulate effectively as required
by 1.00B2b. In considering whether Gage's impairments
meet or equal Listing 1.04, though, the ALJ observed that
“there is no evidence ... [his] back disorder result[s]
in an inability to ambulate effectively ...”
See Transcript at 15.
evidence on the record as a whole supports the ALJ's
finding at step three because Gage has failed to produce
medical evidence that her impairments meet or ...