United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
VOLPE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
recommended disposition has been submitted to United States
District Judge Susan Webber Wright. The parties may file
specific objections to these findings and recommendations and
must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection.
The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than
fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and
recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party.
The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may
reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole
or in part.
Lisa Lindsey, has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny
her claim for disability insurance benefits. Both parties
have submitted appeal briefs and the case is ready for a
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.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir.
1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d
254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996). In assessing the substantiality of
the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts
from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that
supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the
Commissioner's decision merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision.
Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir.
2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir.
history of the administrative proceedings and the statement
of facts relevant to this decision are contained in the
respective briefs and are not in serious dispute. Therefore,
they will not be repeated in this opinion except as
necessary. After careful consideration of the record as a
whole, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported
by substantial evidence.
Lindsey is forty-nine years old. (Tr. 33.) She is a high
school graduate (id.) and has past relevant work as
a school cafeteria cook, hospital housekeeper, and dental
floss packer. (Tr. 21.)
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found Ms. Lindsey had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since September 12, 2014 -
the alleged onset date. (Tr. 12.) She has
“severe” impairments in the form of
“degenerative disc disease of the thoracic and lumbar
spine, chronic pain syndrome, obesity, major depressive
disorder, and generalize anxiety disorder.”
(Id.) Although she has “severe”
impairments, the ALJ found Ms. Lindsey did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling
an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. (Tr. 13-14.)
determined Ms. Lindsey had the residual functional capacity
to perform a reduced range of sedentary work given her
physical and mental impairments. (Tr. 15.) Based on
this finding, the ALJ concluded Ms. Lindsey could no longer
perform her past work and utilized the services of a
vocational expert to determine if jobs existed that Plaintiff
could perform despite her impairments. Based on the testimony
of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined Ms. Lindsey
could perform the jobs of document preparer and surveillance
system monitor. (Tr. 22, 51-55.) Accordingly, the ALJ
determined Ms. Lindsey was not disabled. (Tr. 23.)
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review
of the ALJ's decision, making his decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3.) Plaintiff filed the
instant Complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2.)
central issue in this case is whether the ALJ properly
assessed the limiting effects of Plaintiff's back
impairment. I find this case to be a very close call. There
is much evidence - including a statement from a treating
doctor - that supports Plaintiff's allegations that she
is unable to work because of the debilitating pain and
limitation associated with her degenerative disc disease of
the thoracic and lumbar spine. However, there is also
substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision that
Plaintiff is not precluded from all forms of work activity.
Plaintiff's treating doctors, William Edward Ackerman,
III, M.D., reported that Plaintiff did have some pain and
limitation (Tr. 316), but stated, “The patient is not
disabled from working. In my medical opinion the patient
should have an easier job, but she is not disabled wherein
she is unable to do any activities.” (Tr. 359.) More
recent treatment records from Krishnappa Prasad, M.D., also
support the ALJ's determination. (Tr. 664-669.)
Additionally, Garry Stewart, M.D., completed a General
Physical Examination of Ms. Lindsey and reported nothing to
support a claim of complete disability. (Tr. 307-312.)
Plaintiff argues the ALJ incorrectly discounted the opinion
of her treating physician, J. Michael Calhoun, M.D. (Doc. No.
11 at 5-7.) Dr. Calhoun concluded Ms. Lindsey was disabled.
(Tr. 655.) The ALJ discounted Dr. Calhoun's opinion
saying, “This opinion provides only vague and undefined
work-related limitations and, as noted above, ...