United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
MELIA G. GAY PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
Melia G. Gay, applied for disability income benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”) on January 30, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of January I, 2007. (Tr. at 20). After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(AALJ'') decided that based on a lack of medical
evidence for Gay's DIB claim, he would consider her SSI
claim only (with relevant time-period of January 30, 2014
through May 20, 2015). (Tr. at 20, 27). The ALJ denied her
claim on May 20, 2015. (Tr. at 36). 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 Gay has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Gay had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of July 1, 2007. (Tr.
at 23). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that Gay had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine;
status post right shoulder arthroscopy; depression, anxiety;
congestive heart failure; and hepatitis. Id.
Three, the ALJ determined that Gay's impairments did not
meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. Before
proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Gay had the
residual functional capacity (ARFC'') to perform
sedentary work with restrictions: 1) she would be limited to
occasional postural activities of stooping, crouching,
bending, kneeling, crawling, and balancing; 2) she would be
limited to frequent reaching overhead with the dominant right
upper extremity; 3) she would be limited to work that is
simple, routine, and repetitive with supervision that is
simple, direct, and concrete; and 4) she would be limited to
frequent contact with co-workers and supervisors and
occasional contact with the general public. (Tr. at 25). The
ALJ next determined that Gay could not return to past
relevant work. (Tr. at 34). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on
the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find
that, based on Gay's age, education, work experience and
RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that she could perform. (Tr. at 35). Based on that
determination, the ALJ held that Gay was not disabled. (Tr.
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.
Gay's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She contends that the
ALJ did not assign the proper RFC, arguing that her alleged
pain would further restrict her ability to work. For the
following reasons, the Court finds that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's decision.
claimant's RFC represents the most he can do despite the
combined effects of all of his credible limitations and must
be based on all credible evidence. McCoy v. Astrue,
648 F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). In determining the
claimant's [RFC], the ALJ has a duty to establish, by
competent medical evidence, the physical and mental activity
that the claimant can perform in a work setting, after giving
appropriate consideration to all of [his] impairments.
Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 418 (8th Cir.
making her RFC argument, Gay only raises symptoms of pain as
evidence of error by the ALJ. Therefore, the Court will limit
its discussion to impairments that account for Gay's
complaints of pain arise from lumbar degenerative disc
disease and right shoulder problems, which required
arthroscopic surgery. On April 6, 2013, Dr. Andrew Wilkins,
M.D., found only mild tenderness in a musculoskeletal exam,
and found that Gay was able to stand on tiptoes and heels,
tandem walk, and squat without difficulty. (Tr. at 641-643).
She had full muscle strength and normal sensation and
reflexes. Id. Range of motion for the spine and
upper and lower extremity joints was normal. (Tr. ...