United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
April 28, 2015, Nicholas Green applied for disability income
benefits, alleging disability beginning on April 28, 2015.
(Tr. at 22) Mr. Green's claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a
hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(''ALJ'') denied Mr. Green's application
(Tr. at 32), and the Appeals Council denied his request for
review. (Tr. at 1) Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner, and Mr. Green has
requested judicial review. For the reasons stated below, the
Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Green had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of April 28,
2015. (Tr. at 24) At Step Two of the five-step
analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Green has the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, right carpal
tunnel syndrome, mood disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, obesity, and an anxiety disorder (post-traumatic
stress disorder). Id.
finding that Mr. Green's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 24), the ALJ determined
that Mr. Green had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, with limitations.
(Tr. at 26) He could only occasionally reach overhead
bilaterally; he could only occasionally climb stairs or
ramps, and only occasionally balance, kneel, stoop, crouch,
and crawl. He could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
he should avoid exposure to pulmonary irritants, such as
dust, odors, or fumes; and he must avoid hazards such as
unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. In addition,
he was limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and
only simple work-related decisions; contact with others
should be incidental to the work performed, and the
supervision should be simple, direct, and concrete; he would
need a cane to ambulate; and he would need to alternate after
standing for an hour to sitting for 45 minutes. Id.
found that Mr. Green was unable to perform his past relevant
work. (Tr. at 31) At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the
testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find,
based on Mr. Green's age, education, work experience and
RFC, that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that he could perform. (Tr. at 32) Based on that
determination, the ALJ held that Mr. Green was not disabled.
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, “enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision.”
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009). 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.
Arguments on Appeal
Green argues that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ's RFC determination
did not fully incorporate limitations stemming from carpal
tunnel syndrome and PTSD.
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 a
claimant's RFC, the ALJ must establish, by competent
medical evidence, the physical and mental activities that the
claimant can perform in a work setting, considering all
impairments. Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 418
(8th Cir. 1996).
carpal tunnel syndrome, Mr. Green first complained of right
wrist pain on October 11, 2013. (Tr. at 1408-1414) On April
1, 2015, Dr. Mandeep Malhotra diagnosed carpal tunnel
syndrome and right median neuropathy. (Tr. at 1499-1507) Even
so, Dr. Malhotra noted that those conditions did not affect
Mr. Green's ability to work. (Tr. at 1505) A lack of
physician-imposed restrictions may serve as a reason to
discredit a claimant's credibility. Hensley v.
Barnhart, 352 F.3d 353, 357 (8th Cir. 2003). Dr.
Malhotra wrote that the effects from Mr. Green's carpal
tunnel syndrome were minimal. (Tr. at 1507)
social worker, Kenyetta McIntosh, saw Mr. Green on July 22,
2015, and noted that he did not have any physical
disabilities that precluded him from performing activities of
daily living. (Tr. at 1480-1481) In fact, Mr. Green testified
that he cooked for himself, did his own laundry, and mowed
his yard. (Tr. at 58-59) He also cared for his children after
school. (Tr. at 59) Such daily activities undermine his
claims of disability. Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d
484, 487 (8th Cir. 1995); Edwards v. Barnhart, 314
F.3d 964, 967 (8th Cir. 2003).
February 5, 2016, Dr. Baker Stewart, M.D., diagnosed Mr.
Green with mild right carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. at
1596-1602) Objective tests that show mild to moderate
conditions do not support a finding of disability.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th
Cir. 2004). Dr. Stewart wrote that there was no evidence of