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Goins v. Berryhill

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

March 6, 2018

ASHLEY R. GOINS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Susan Webber Wright. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection.

         To be considered, your objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Wright can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         On July 15, 2013, Ashley R. Goins applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning on July 24, 2006. (Tr. at 22) Ms. Goins's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 37) The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Ms. Goins has requested judicial review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Goins had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of July 15, 2013. (Tr. at 24) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Goins had the following severe impairments: history of traumatic brain injury with epilepsy, mood disorder with borderline-personality traits, and anxiety disorder. (Tr. at 25)

         After finding that Ms. Goins's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 26), the ALJ determined that Ms. Goins had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels, with some limitations. (Tr. at 28) She could not work at unprotected heights, or be around moving or dangerous machinery, or drive a motor vehicle. Id. She would be limited to unskilled work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed and where the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, has few variables, and requires little independent judgment. Id. She would be limited to supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete, and she could not deal with the general public. Id.

         The ALJ next found that Ms. Goins had no past relevant work. (Tr. at 36) At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Ms. Goins's age, education, work experience and RFC, she was capable of performing work in the national economy as mailroom clerk, inspector, and hand packager. (Tr. at 37) Based on the determination, the ALJ held that Ms. Goins was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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) (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, “merely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         B. Ms. Goins's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Goins contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that the ALJ erred in his RFC and credibility determinations, that he failed to fulfill his duty at step five. After reviewing the record as a whole, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err in denying benefits.

         Ms. Goins suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car wreck in July of 2006. (Tr. at 410, 499) She claimed she had recurring seizures as a result, but did not show treatment for seizures in the six years following the accident. (Tr. at 29) The failure to seek regular and continuing treatment contradicts allegations of disability. See Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F.3d 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997). She had a seizure while in prison in 2012, but stated that she was not using seizure medication at that time. (Tr. at 29) Ms. Goins was prescribed Dilantin in April of 2013, but admitted she was not taking ...


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