United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
RICKY D. GRAY, PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Ricky D. Gray has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
his claims for disability benefits and supplemental security
income. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs, and the
case is ready for decision.
Gray alleges that he became limited in his ability to work
due to breathing problems, right elbow pain, and hearing
loss. (SSA record at 102, 273) After conducting a hearing,
the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") concluded that
Mr. Gray had not been under a disability within the meaning
of the Social Security Act ("the Act") at any time
from March 10, 2014, through January 7, 2016, the date of the
decision. (Id. at 52) The Appeals Council
denied a request for review of the ALJ's decision, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Id. at 1-5) Mr. Gray then filed his
complaint initiating this appeal. (Docket entry #2)
Gray was 55 years old at the time of the hearing and lived
with his wife and nine-year-old granddaughter. (SSA record at
63, 69) Mr. Gray had a ninth grade education and past work as
dump-truck driver and construction laborer. (Id. at
The ALJ's Decision:
determined that Mr. Gray had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since March 10, 2014, and that his affective
disorder and substance abuse disorder were severe
impairments; but, he did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met a listing. (Id.
at 41-42) He further found that Mr. Gray's allegations
regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of
his symptoms were not entirely credible. (Id. at 50)
on these findings, the ALJ concluded that, during the
relevant time period, Mr. Gray retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) for unskilled work at
all exertional levels. He could perform work where
interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed;
tasks should be no more complex than those learned and
performed by rote, with few variables and require little
judgment; and any supervision required is limited to simple,
direct, and concrete. (Id. at 44-45)
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 free of legal error.
Papesh v. Colvin, 786 F.3d 1126, 1131 (8th Cir.
2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would accept
as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Phillips v.
Astrue, 671 F.3d 699, 702 (8th Cir. 2012). Substantial
evidence on the record as a whole requires a court
to take into account record evidence that fairly detracts
from the ALJ's decision. Reed v. Barnhart, 399
F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). Reversal
is not warranted, however, “merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”
Gray complains that the ALJ erred in failing to find his neck
pain and hearing loss to be severe impairments. (#11 at 6-9)
The Commissioner responds that, because the evidence did not
demonstrate that either condition significantly limited Mr.
Gray's ability to perform the basic, physical demands of
work, the ALJ properly concluded that these impairments were
not severe. (#12 at 4-5)
claimant has the burden of proving that an impairment is
severe, which, by definition, causes more than a minimal
limitation in the claimant's ability to do basic work
activities. Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894
(8th Cir. 2006); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a),
404.922(a). If the impairment would have no more than a
minimal effect on the claimant's ability to do work, then
it is not considered a severe impairment. Page v.
Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007).
Gray argues that neck pain is one of his “primary
impairments.” He did not specify neck pain as a
physical condition that limited his ability to work, however,
at the time he applied for benefits; or when he completed his
function reports and pain questionnaires. (SSA record at 273,
292, 301, 307, 311, 319, 361, 412)
ALJ notes, Anandaraj Subramanium, M.D., who performed a
consultative examination of Mr. Gray's physical
limitations, observed that Mr. Gray's range of motion was
either normal or that his limitations were unremarkable: his
straight leg raise test was negative; his gait was normal;
and he could ambulate without assistance. Dr. Subramanium
observed no muscle weakness or atrophy, and no muscle sensory
abnormalities. (Id. at 412-16)
and June, 2015, Mr. Gray was treated by Stacy Armstrong, D.O.
Mr. Gray reported neck and back pain; and on examination he
had a “slight tenderness” in his cervical spine.
(Id. at 442-47) She recommended physical therapy.
(Id.) The record indicates that Dr. Armstrong only
treated Mr. Gray on ...