United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
RICHARD R. WHITECOTTON PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Richard R. Whitecotton, brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his claims for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental
security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 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. §
protectively filed his current applications for DIB and SSI
on July 17, 2014, alleging an inability to work since March
31, 2012, due to severe refractory hypertension; sleep apnea;
atherosclerotic cerebrovascular disease; high blood pressure;
pain in the legs, hips and arms; and knots under the skin.
(Tr. 85, 199, 206). An administrative hearing was held on
October 28, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel
and testified. (Tr. 55-82).
written decision dated April 22, 2016, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 21).
the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
essential hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive
heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, obesity and an
adjustment disorder. However, after reviewing all of the
evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of
any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in
Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 22). The ALJ
found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except he is able to perform work 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 co-workers, supervisors
and the general public.
(Tr. 24). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff could perform work as an addresser, a
stuffer, and an escort vehicle driver. (Tr. 29).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on July 3, 2017.
(Tr. 1-6). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc.
1). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is
before the undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs.
Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of
facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs,
and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.
participated in an administrative hearing before an ALJ on
October 28, 2015. (Tr. 55-82). Plaintiff's past relevant
work consists of a work as a maintenance mechanic and a
construction worker I. (Tr. 77).
pertinent medical evidence during the relevant time period
reflects the following. On November 6, 2012, Plaintiff was
seen by Dr. John Urban to establish care. (Tr. 382-383).
Plaintiff complained of an elevated blood pressure, fatigue,
chest pains and dizziness. Plaintiff reported he stopped
taking his hypertension medication six to seven years ago.
Plaintiff reported experiencing chest pain and pain into his
left arm over the past few week. Plaintiff was assessed with
benign essential hypertension and prescribed medication.
November 13, 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Urban for a
follow-up for his high blood pressure. (Tr. 380-382).
Plaintiff reported a very mild bout of chest pain. Plaintiff
also complained of chronic calf pain. Plaintiff denied
experiencing depression or anxiety. After examining
Plaintiff, Dr. Urban diagnosed Plaintiff with benign
essential hypertension, knee joint pain and essential
April 29, 2013, Plaintiff was seen for a follow-up for his
blood pressure, a medication refill and back and hip pain.
(Tr. 379-380). Dr. Urban noted Plaintiff reported that his
blood pressure ran a little high at times but he had not
taken nitroglycerin. Plaintiff reported daily caffeine
consumption and smoking. Plaintiff denied dyspnea, but
reported occasional chest pain but not severe enough to take
nitroglycerin. Plaintiff was assessed with benign
hypertension and chest pain or discomfort. Plaintiff was
referred for a cardiac stress test to be performed on May 14,
February 10, 2014, Plaintiff entered the Mercy Hospital Fort
Smith emergency room complaining of shortness of breath. (Tr.
310-320). Plaintiff denied experiencing chest pain and
reported he had not been taking his blood pressure
medication. Plaintiff denied fatigue, leg swelling, myalgias,
back pain, chest pain, weakness, headaches or confusion.
reported that he smoked one package of cigarettes daily. Upon
examination, Dr. Stephen Nelson noted Plaintiff's heart
had a normal rate and heart sounds with no evidence of
gallop, friction rub or murmur. Plaintiff had normal breath
sounds and he was not in respiratory distress.
Plaintiff's musculoskeletal exam revealed Plaintiff had
normal range of motion. Plaintiff was found to have normal
coordination. Plaintiff was diagnosed with hypertension, an
abnormal EKG, dyspnea and tobacco abuse. Plaintiff was
prescribed medication and discharged.
February 17, 2014, Plaintiff reported that he was concerned
about his elevated blood pressure. (Tr. 378-379). Dr. Thinh
Nguyen noted Plaintiff was started on hypertension medication
by an emergency room doctor one week ago. Plaintiff reported
that he continued to feel lightheaded and shaky. Upon
examination, Dr. Nguyen noted Plaintiff had a normal heart
rate and rhythm. Plaintiff had abnormal heart sounds and a
murmur was heard at 2/6 SEM best at RUSB. There was no edema
present. After examining Plaintiff, Dr. Nguyen ...