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Goldman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

January 5, 2018

TAWNYA SOUTH GOLDMAN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER

         Tawnya Goldman (“Goldman”) applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged disability onset date of July 31, 2011. (R. at 79). After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (R. at 29). The Appeals Council denied Goldman's request for review (R. at 1), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Goldman has requested judicial review.[1]

         For the reasons stated below, the Court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision.

         I. The Commissioner's Decision

         The ALJ found that Goldman had the severe impairments of seizures, headaches, degenerative disk disease, diabetes, obesity, anemia, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. (R. at 18). Based on the evidence, the ALJ determined that Goldman's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) allowed her to perform sedentary work except that: she could only sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour day; she was limited to standing and walking for a total of two hours in an eight-hour day; she was limited to occasional stooping, crouching, bending, kneeling, crawling, and balancing; she required seizure precautions, with no work around unprotected heights, unprotected moving machinery, and no use of firearms, ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; she was limited to work that is simple, routine, and repetitive, with supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete; and she could have frequent contact with coworkers and supervisors and occasional contact with the public. (R. at 20).

         Because this RFC precluded Goldman from performing any of her past relevant work (R. at 27), the ALJ took testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”). According to the VE, a person with Goldman's RFC could perform other jobs such as assembler and inspector. (R. at 31). Thus, the ALJ held that Goldman was not disabled. (R. at 28).

         II. Discussion

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however, “merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         Goldman argues that the ALJ: (1) failed to consider her epilepsy and seizures under Listing 11.03 and develop the record regarding that listing; (2) did not fully account for her mental limitations; and (3) failed to fully account for her physical limitations. Because the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in failing to consider and develop the record regarding whether Goldman's seizures met a listing, it is not necessary to reach her other points for reversal.

         If the claimant meets the criteria of a listed impairment, no further proof is needed to establish disability. Johnson v. Astrue, 628 F.3d 991, 993 (8th Cir. 2011). In his decision, the ALJ stated that he had considered Listings 1.04, 12.04, and 12.06. (R. at 18-19). Although he found that Goldman's seizures were a severe impairment and that she required seizure precautions to work (R. at 18, 20), he did not discuss Goldman's seizures or epilepsy at all when considering the listings.

         Listing 11.03 requires a showing of:

nonconvulsive epilepsy (petit mal, psychomotor, or focal), documented by detailed description of a typical seizure pattern, including all associated phenomena; occurring more frequently than once weekly in spite of at least 3 months of prescribed treatment. With alteration of awareness or loss of consciousness and transient postictal manifestations ...

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