United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Billy
Roy Wilson. Any party may file written objections to this
Recommendation. Objections must specifically explain the
factual or legal basis for the objection. To be considered,
objections must be received by the Clerk of Court within 14
days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, parties may
waive the right to appeal questions of fact.
Foster applied for social security disability benefits
alleging a disability onset date of August 4, 2014. (R. at
150). After a hearing, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) issued a decision denying the
application. (R. at 112). The Appeals Council denied review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Social Security Administration. (R. at 1). Mr. Foster has now
filed this lawsuit requesting judicial review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Foster had the following severe impairments:
posttraumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder.
(R. at 104). The ALJ found, however, that Mr. Foster's
right-shoulder rotator cuff tear, mild degenerative disk
disease, and obesity were not severe impairments. (R. at
105). After considering all of Mr. Foster's impairments,
the ALJ found that Mr. Foster had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to work at all exertional
levels, so long as the job requirements were limited to
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving only simple
work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes
and no more than incidental contact with coworkers,
supervisors, and the general public. (R. at 107).
vocational expert (“VE”) testified that, with
this RFC assignment, Mr. Foster could not perform his past
relevant work. (R. at 110). The VE further testified,
however, Mr. Foster could perform other jobs, such as hand
packager, warehouse checker, and printed circuit board
checker. (R. at 111). Based on this testimony, the ALJ found
that Mr. Foster was not disabled. (R. at 112).
Court is tasked with reviewing the record to determine
whether substantial evidence on the record as a whole
supports the Commissioner's findings. 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
Foster contends that the ALJ erred in finding that his
rotator cuff tear and degenerative disk disease were
non-severe impairments and objects to the ALJ's
conclusion that the medical evidence did not support a
finding that these impairments caused significant pain and
functional limitations. He also challenges the weight the ALJ
afforded the medical opinions in the record.
initial matter, Mr. Foster complains that the Appeals Council
did not review the medical records he provided after the
initial decision. The contention is mistaken. He notes that
the Appeals Council purported to look at medical records from
Central Arkansas HCS dated February 17, 2016 through March
11, 2016 totaling 180 pages, but erroneously identified the
evidence as covering a period from October 21, 2014 through
February 16, 2016. (R. at 2, 5).
is no inconsistency. The HCS records from February 17, 2016
through March 11, 2016 are found in the record at pages
19-98. These records were not considered by the Appeals
Council because they cover a period after January 25, 2016,
the date of the ALJ's decision and are, therefore, not
relevant to the claim at issue in this case.
records from October 21, 2014 through February 16, 2016,
which cover a time period that is relevant to Mr.
Foster's application in this case, were properly
considered. See Exhibit 14F. The letter and order from the
Appeals Council accurately reflect the status of these
separate portions of Mr. Foster's medical records from
Central Arkansas HCS records.
Foster next argues that the ALJ erred by finding that his
rotator cuff tear and degenerative disk disease were not
severe impairments. He maintains that MRIs of his back and
shoulder establish a severe impairment.
of Mr. Foster's back revealed mild-to-moderate facet
arthropathy and ligamentum thickening at all lumbar levels;
mild diffuse disk bulge at ¶ 3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1; no
significant thecal sac compression; and minimal-to-moderate
narrowing of the neural foramina from L3-L4 to L5-S1. (R. at
2101). An MRI of his shoulder revealed tears in the
supraspinatus tendon, infraspinatus, and subscapularis; a
subchondral cyst ...