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Krause v. Berryhill

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

January 8, 2018

JOHN KRAUSE PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, John Krause, applied for disability benefits on August 7, 2014, alleging an onset date of July 7, 2014. (Tr. at 13). His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ") denied Krause's application. (Tr. at 22). The Appeals Council denied his request for review (Tr. at 1), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Krause has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] reverses the ALJ's decision and remands for further review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Krause had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of July 7, 2014. (Tr. at 15). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Krause has the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease with radicular pain down the left leg and hip (status post discectomy) and depression. Id.

         After finding that Krause's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 15), the ALJ determined that Krause had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work, except that: (1) he can lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; (2) he can stand and/or walk in intervals of 10 minutes for two hours in an eight-hour work period; (3) he can sit in intervals of 20-30 minutes for six hours in an eight-hour work period; (4) he can push and/or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; (5) he can stoop so as to reach knee level or tabletop level; (6) he can understand, remember, and carry out simple job instructions and make judgments in simple work-related situations; and (7) he can respond appropriately to co-workers/supervisors and respond appropriately to minor changes in usual work routine. (Tr. at 17).

         Next, the ALJ found that Krause was not capable of performing past relevant work. (Tr. at 20). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Krause's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, specifically production assembler and document preparer. (Tr. at 21). Based on that determination, the ALJ held that Krause was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review 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).

         B. Krause's Arguments on Appeal

         Krause contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. He argues that: (1) the ALJ erred in finding Krause less than credible; and (2) the ALJ ignored relevant medical evidence. The Court agrees that the ALJ made several errors and therefore, his decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

         Krause suffered long-term pain in his back, which did not fully resolve, even after Dr. John Campbell, M.D., performed a right L5-S1 discectomy and laminectomy in May 2010. (Tr. at 388-399). An MRI from just before the surgery showed a focal disc extrusion at ¶ 5-S1 which was effacing the thecal sac and displacing the right nerve root laterally. (Tr. at 377-378). An MRI from June 2010 showed multiple levels of chronic degenerative posterior facet joint effusions with no significant nerve root impingement. (Tr. at 387). At a January 24, 2011 visit with Dr. Campbell, Krause complained of a debilitating burning sensation in his right leg. ...


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