United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
24, 2010, Walter James applied for disability benefits,
alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2001. (Tr. at
110-113, 125) Mr. James's claims were denied initially
and upon reconsideration. After conducting a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (AALJ @) denied his application.
(Tr. at 25) The Appeals Council denied his request for
review. (Tr. at 1)
Mr. James filed a complaint in this Court. The Court reversed
the ALJ's decision and remanded for further development
of Vocational Expert (“VE”) testimony. (Tr. at
454-463); James v. Colvin, No. 3:14-CV-26 JTK (E.D.
Ark. Nov. 26, 2014). The Court found that the ALJ had not
resolved a discrepancy between the VE's testimony and the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”). (Tr.
at 461) The conflict arose from VE testimony that Mr. James
could perform jobs with a level-three reasoning when the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) limited him
to simple work. The Court pointed to Clay v.
Barnhart, 417 F.3d 922, 931 (8th Cir. 2005), which held
that jobs with a reasoning level of three were arguably
inconsistent with an RFC for simple, concrete work. (Tr. at
second hearing was held on August 18, 2015. (Tr. at 347). The
ALJ denied Mr. James's application. (Tr. at 358) The
Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 314)
Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision
of the Commissioner, and Mr. James has requested judicial
review. For the reasons stated below, the Courtreverses the
ALJ's decision and remands for further review.
The Commissioner=s Decision:
found that Mr. James had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the application date of June 24, 2010. (Tr. at
349) The ALJ found, at Step Two of the five-step analysis,
that Mr. James has the following severe impairments: asthma,
status-post open reduction internal fixation of right and
left hip fracture, arthritis, hypertension, obesity,
depression, and mild-to-borderline mental retardation.
finding that Mr. James's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 349), the ALJ determined
that Mr. James had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with additional
limitations. (Tr. at 351) He could only occasionally balance,
stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, and climb ramps and stairs; he
would require a can for walking and balance; he would need to
avoid concentrated exposure to dust, odors, gases, fumes, and
extreme hot temperatures; he would be limited to simple,
routine work with simple instructions with SVP of 1 or 2; and
he would need a sit-stand option every 30 minutes for
position change. (Tr. at 351-352)
found that Mr. James had no past relevant work. (Tr. at 49)
At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a VE to
find, based on Mr. James's age, education, work
experience and RFC, that he was capable of performing work in
the national economy as a surveillance system monitor and an
order clerk. (Tr. at 358) Based on the determination, the ALJ
held that Mr. James was not disabled. Id.
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 “enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support the ALJ's decision.” Id.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009)
(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, Amerely 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.
James's Arguments on Appeal
James argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. His sole argument is
that the jobs identified by the VE involve level-three
reasoning, as defined by the DOT, thereby exceeding the
ALJ's RFC finding that James could only perform simple,
routine work with simple instructions. Thus, James argues,
there was a conflict between the VE testimony and the DOT,
which the ALJ failed to resolve.
ALJ's limitation of Mr. James to simple, routine work
arose from evidence that he was operating within the
“moderate” retardation range (Tr. at 221) and
that he would have difficulty sustaining concentration and
persistence on basic work tasks. (Tr. at 212-213)
Consultative examiner Mary Ellen Ziolko, Ph.D., found that
Mr. James would be unable to complete work-like tasks within
an acceptable timeframe. Id. Dr. Ziolko also noted,
however, that Mr. James's ...