United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Batesville Division
Roger Stone, applied for disability benefits on July 11,
2014, alleging a disability onset date of March 30, 2013.
(Tr. at 18). 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 Stone has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Stone had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of March 30, 2013. (Tr.
at 20). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that Stone had the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus, essential hypertension,
congestive heart failure, and status post right knee surgery.
Three, the ALJ determined that Stone's impairments did
not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 21).
Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Stone
had the residual functional capacity (ARFC@) to perform
medium work, except that he could only occasionally crouch
and kneel. Id. The ALJ next determined that Stone is
capable of performing past relevant work. (Tr. at 25). In the
alternative, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational
Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Stone's
age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that he could
perform. Id. Based on that determination, the ALJ
held that Stone was not disabled. (Tr. at 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)).
Stone's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. He contends that the
assigned RFC did not reflect all of Stone's limitations
and that the ALJ did not conduct a proper credibility
analysis. For the following reasons, the Court finds that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
Stone had multiple severe impairments, he focused his
argument on limitations arising from congestive heart failure
and hypertension, so the Court will likewise limit its
discussion. Stone underwent cardiac catheterization in
2011, prior to the relevant time-period for disability
determination. (Tr. at 273-274). He was stable after surgery
and his doctor released him to return to usual work duties,
performing heavy work as a tire technician. (Tr. at 200,
274). There is no record of Stone pursuing treatment for
heart conditions again until November 4, 2014, when he
complained of heart palpitations. (Tr. at 24, 382-384).
Failure to treat a condition undermines a claim of
disability. Smith v. Shalala, 987 F.2d 1371, 1374
(8th Cir. 1993)(when a claimant has not treated his anxiety,
the ALJ is justified in ruling out anxiety as an impairment);
Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 967 (8th Cir.
2003)(failure to seek regular and available medical treatment
undermines claim of disabling pain). At that appointment,
Stone did not complain of chest pain and had a normal heart
rate, rhythm, and heart sounds. (Tr. at 382). His doctor
added Coreg to treat hypertension. (Tr. at 383).
January 6, 2015, Stone presented with complications from
hypertension, but again, his cardiovascular office exam was
normal and the doctor also noted that Stone was not compliant
with an exercise regimen. (Tr. at 445). A claimant's
non-compliance with treatment is a legitimate consideration
in evaluating the validity of his alleged disability. See
Holley v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1088, 1092 (8th Cir.
2001). At that time, Stone's heart condition was
“stable.” (Tr. at 447). And in September 2015, a
stress echocardiogram was normal. (Tr. at 481). 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). By November 2015, Stone
reported that his hypertension was “doing well.”
(Tr. at 484).
state agency medical consultants reviewed the record and
found Stone's impairments to be ...