United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L.BROOKS UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE
Delana Gale Flippo brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying her claims for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits
("DIB") and supplemental security income
("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act (hereinafter "the Act"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). In this judicial
review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial
evidence in the administrative record to support the
Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. §
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on January 22, 2013,
alleging an onset date of April 2, 2012, due to breast cancer
unknown stage, high blood pressure, depression, degenerative
disc disease, left knee torn anterior cruciate ligament
("ACL"), right knee, right shoulder, right hip,
left arm, and left hand conditions. (Doc. 10, pp. 119, 136,
157-58, 165, 174-75). Based on her work credits, the
Commissioner determined that the Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2017.
Id. at 274-75.
application was denied at both the initial and
reconsideration levels. An administrative hearing was held on
May 6, 2015. The Plaintiff was present and represented by
counsel. Id. at 86-106. Following the hearing, an
administrative law judge ("ALJ") entered an
unfavorable decision on November 3, 2015. Id. at
concluded that Plaintiffs carpal tunnel syndrome
("CTS"), degenerative joint disease of the left
knee and right shoulder, degenerative disc disease
("DDD") of the cervical and lumbar spine, mild
hearing loss, anxiety, and major depressive disorder were
severe, but they did not meet or medically equal one of the
listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No.
4. Id. at 63-66. The ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
performing sedentary work, except that she can only reach
overhead occasionally, and she can perform only simple tasks
with simple instructions. Id. at 66.
time of the administrative hearing held on May 6, 2015,
Plaintiff was 41 years of age and had obtained a general
equivalency diploma. Id. at 92-93. Plaintiffs past
relevant work consisted of working as a cashier, caregiver,
and certified nursing assistant. Id. at 72-73. With
the assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff could perform work as a document preparer, escort
vehicle driver, and small product assembler. Id. at
requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals
Council, and the request was denied on October 6, 2016.
Id. at 7-13. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this
action. (Doc. 1). Both parties have submitted appeal briefs
to the Court, see Docs. 11, 12, and the case is now
ready for decision. The Court has carefully reviewed the
entire transcript and repeats the facts and arguments
presented in the parties' briefs only to the extent
necessary to provide context to the final decision.
medical conditions are supported by various medical reports
in the record. The reports indicate that on February 22,
2012, Plaintiff presented to Dr. Tarik Sidani, D.O., because
she injured her left knee getting out of bed two months
earlier. (Doc. 10, pp. 429, 502). Plaintiff reported that
taking anti-inflammatories and pain medication provided her
with little relief. Id. Dr. Sidani ordered a left
knee magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") study.
March 1, 2012, Dr. Sidani reviewed Plaintiffs MRI study, and
he did not see any specific meniscus pathology. Id.
at 428, 430. The left knee MRI study showed early
osteoarthritis with small effusion. Id. at 430, 494.
Dr. Sidani then administered a combination Kenalog and
Marcaine steroid injection, and noted that if the pain
continued, an arthroscopy would be recommended. Id.
at 428, 501.
25, 2012, Plaintiff reported that the steroid injection
helped her pain, but she continued to have mechanical
symptoms that caused her to fall on a couple of occasions.
Id. at 428. Dr. Sidani scheduled Plaintiff for
surgery, but he cautioned that it might be a purely
diagnostic procedure. Id. On July 3, 2012, Plaintiff
underwent a left knee arthroscopy with abrasion
chondroplasty. Id. at 432-33, 506-07. Surgical
pathology showed left knee arthroscopic debridement.
Id. at 508. Then, on July 19, 2012, Plaintiff
presented to the emergency department of North Arkansas
Regional Medical Center ("NARMC") with extreme left
knee pain, and she was prescribed Norco. /of. at 509-11.
25, 2012, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Sidani three weeks after
the left knee arthroscopy and complained of severe knee pain.
Id. at 427. Dr. Sidani recommended Plaintiff get off
crutches, weight bear as tolerated, wean off pain medication,
and participate in formal physical therapy. Id. On
September 24, 2012, Plaintiff reported that her knee had not
stopped hurting since the surgery. Id. at 442. Dr.
Victor Armstrong, D.O., suggested that Plaintiff obtain a
second orthopedic opinion. Id. Plaintiffs Celexa
prescription was changed to Prozac at that time, due to
possible side effects. Id. at 443.
October 30, 2012, Dr. D. Wayne Brooks, M.D., wrote in his
records that he had managed Plaintiff's chronic pain for
a couple years. Id. at 427. Dr. Brooks noted that
Plaintiff had been doing very well with oral pain
medications. Id. Plaintiffs medication included
Oxycodone, along with Clonazepam for muscle spasms and
anxiety. Id. at 434.
March 5, 2013, Plaintiff reported having back pain and a
burning sensation in the left lower extremity and buttock
area, and she also complained that her Prozac prescription
was not working as well. Id. at 448. Upon
examination, Plaintiffs gait was found to be within normal
limits. Dr. Armstrong started Plaintiff on Effexor and
tapered the Prozac. Id. Oxycodone was also
prescribed, and a lumbar spine MRI study was ordered.
Id. at 448-49.
March 20, 2013, a review of the lumbar spine MRI study
revealed a small disc herniation at ¶ 5-S1. Id.
at 450, 516. Plaintiff reported that Effexor was helping a
lot with her depressive disorder. Id. at 450. On May
22, 2013, Plaintiff presented to the emergency department of
NARMC and reported difficulty taking a deep ...