United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
VOLPE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
recommended disposition has been submitted to United States
District Judge Kristine G. Baker. 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.
Matthew Watkins, appears pro se and has appealed the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration to deny his claim for disability insurance
benefits. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs and the
case is now ready for a decision.
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.
was thirty-three years old at the time of the administrative
hearing. (Tr. 34.) He testified that he earned a
bachelor's degree in construction management.
(Id.) Mr. Watkins has past relevant work as a
security guard (including shift supervisor), carpenter, line
worker, and landscape worker. (Tr. 22.)
Administrative Law Judge found Mr. Watkins has
“severe” impairments in the form of
“dermatomyositis, adjustment disorder with mixed
anxiety and depressed mood, and conversion disorder, rule
out.” (Tr. 11.) The ALJ further found Mr. Watkins did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting
or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 11-13.)
determined Mr. Watkins had the residual functional capacity
to perform a reduced range of sedentary work. (Tr. 13-14.)
Given this residual functional capacity, Mr. Watkins is no
longer able to perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 22.)
Therefore, the ALJ employed the services of a vocational
expert to determine whether jobs existed that Mr. Watkins
could perform despite his impairments. (Tr. 57-62.) The ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs
of document preparer and lamp shade assembler. (Tr. 23.)
Accordingly, the ALJ determined Mr. Watkins was not disabled.
support of his Complaint, Plaintiff argues the ALJ should
have given “controlling weight” to Tim
Freyaldenhoven, M.D. (Doc. No. 13 at 2-13.) Plaintiff is
correct that his treating doctor should generally be given
deference, but after a close review of the records, I find
the ALJ properly assessed the opinion of Dr. Freyaldenhoven.
actually gave “significant weight” to Dr.
Freyaldenhoven's Medical Assessment Form. (Tr. 656-660.)
The Assessment largely supports the ALJ's determination
that Mr. Watkins is capable of performing sedentary work. The
ALJ stated, “The undersigned has given significant
weight to this opinion based on Dr. [Freyaldenhoven's]
familiarity with the claimant's history and condition and
his specialized experience in the field of neurology.”
(Tr. 20.) The ALJ also noted Dr. Freyaldenhoven's opinion
was generally consistent with the overall evidence of record.
(Id.) The point of contention is Dr.
Freyaldenhoven's statement that Plaintiff would be
required to miss work “more than four days a
month.” (Tr. 659.) On that point, the ALJ stated,
“. . . this assessment is also based on a provisional
diagnosis of dermatomyositis and the provided allowance for
work absences in excess of four time[s] a month is overly
restrictive in light of the claimant's relatively benign
presentation throughout the record.” (Tr. 20.)
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has
Generally, a treating physician's opinion is given more
weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). Indeed, when the treating
physician's opinion is supported by proper medical
testing, and is not inconsistent with other substantial
evidence in the record, the ALJ must give the opinion
controlling weight. Id. “However, [a]n ALJ may
discount or even disregard the opinion of a treating
physician where other medical assessments are supported by
better or more thorough medical evidence, or where a treating
physician renders inconsistent opinions that undermine the
credibility of such opinions.” Wildman v.
Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir. 2010) (alteration in