United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Kelly Gould, applied for disability benefits on May 8, 2014,
alleging a disability onset date of April 24, 2014. (Tr. at
12). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(AALJ) denied her application. (Tr. at 23). 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 Gould has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Gould had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of April 24, 2014. (Tr.
at 14). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that Gould has the following severe
impairments: chronic pain syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis
(“RA”), degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, depressive disorder, and
Three, the ALJ determined that Gould's impairments did
not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 15).
Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Gould
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work, with the following limitations: (1) she
could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (2) she could
only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, or balance, kneel,
crouch, or crawl; (3) she could have no exposure to
unprotected heights or hazards in the workplace; (4) she
could only frequently handle and finger; (5) she could
perform unskilled work with specific vocational preparation
(“SVP”) of one or two; (6) interpersonal contact
must be incidental to the work performed; and (7) the
required supervision must be simple, direct, and concrete.
(Tr. at 17). The ALJ next determined that Gould is unable to
perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 21). At Step Five,
the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
("VE") to find that, based on Gould's age,
education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that she could
perform. (Tr. at 22). Based on that determination, the ALJ
held that Gould was not disabled. (Tr. at 23).
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)).
Gould's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She contends that the
assigned RFC did not reflect all of her limitations and that
the ALJ did not conduct a proper credibility analysis. For
the following reasons, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports both the RFC and the credibility
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.
suffers from chronic pain arising from lumbar degeneration,
RA, and fibromyalgia. A 2014 MRI of the lumbar spine showed
mild disc bulging and mild bilateral foraminal narrowing with
no canal compromise. (Tr. at 420, 451). A nerve conduction
study on April 21, 2014 showed no evidence of lumbar
radiculopathy, neuropathy, or chronic myotomes. (Tr. at 415,
493). Objective tests showing mild to moderate conditions do
not support a finding of disability. Masterson v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th Cir. 2004).
on May 22, 2014, Gould tested positive for RA, she told her
doctor in July 2014 that her pain was better and that she did
not have any low back pain over the previous two weeks. (Tr.
at 491). Dr. Kenneth Chan, D.O, found Gould to be