United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Batesville Division
LARRY K. RICHARDSON PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
Larry K. Richardson, applied for disability benefits on
September 2, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of
October 1, 2013. (Tr. at 16). After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (AALJ) denied his application. (Tr.
at 26). 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 Richardson has requested
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Richardson had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of October 1, 2013 (Tr.
at 18). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that Richardson has the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease and carpal tunnel
Three, the ALJ determined that Richardson's impairments
did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at
20). Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ
determined that Richardson had the residual functional
capacity (ARFC@) to perform sedentary work, except that he is
limited to occasional climbing, balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling, and is also limited to
occasional overhead bilateral reaching. (Tr. at 21). The ALJ
next determined that Richardson is unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. at 24). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on
the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find
that, based on Richardson's age, education, work
experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that he could perform. (Tr. at 25).
Based on that determination, the ALJ held that Richardson was
not disabled. (Tr. at 25-26).
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)).
Richardson's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits, because the RFC did not
incorporate all of his limitations. 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.
suffers from chronic pain arising from disc degeneration, and
he had fusion surgery on December 9, 2015. (Tr. at 586-588).
Prior to that, a cervical MRI showed evidence of a prior 2008
fusion, with no disc herniation or nerve root encroachment.
(Tr. at 374). A hip x-ray showed no acute findings. (Tr. at
422). 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).
points to the opinion of state-agency medical consultant, Dr.
Ananduraj Subramanium, M.D., for his position that he was
disabled. Dr. Subramanium said that Richardson would have
moderate limitation on prolonged walking, standing, sitting,
or lifting. (Tr. at 414-416). However, this opinion, dated
February 17, 2015, is not consistent with the doctor's
own clinical exam, which found normal reflexes, no muscle
spasm or weakness, negative straight-leg raise, and normal
gait and coordination. Id. He found normal gait and
coordination but also found that Richardson could not perform
a heel to toe walk, which is inconsistent. Physician opinions
that are internally 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). Moreover, the moderate postural