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Simons v. Berryhill

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

May 8, 2018

BOYCE SIMONS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Boyce Simons, applied for disability benefits on September 25, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of June 10, 2012 (Tr. at 21). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ) denied his application. (Tr. at 34). The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Simons has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Simons had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of June 10, 2012. (Tr. at 23). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, that Simons has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension, and obesity. Id.

         At Step Three, the ALJ determined that Simons's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 25). Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Simons had the residual functional capacity (ARFC@) to perform work at the light level, except that: (1) he can only occasionally climb, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; (2) he cannot perform overhead reaching with the left, non-dominant arm; (3) he can only frequently reach and handle; and (4) he is limited to standing and walking for two-hour intervals before he must take a break. (Tr. at 27).

         The ALJ made no finding at Step Four regarding past relevant work.[2] (Tr. at 30-31). The ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Simons's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform. (Tr. at 32). Based on that determination, the ALJ held that Simons was not disabled. (Tr. at 32-34).

         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 less than a preponderance but more than a scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision.” Id. (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) (quoting Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         B. Simons's Arguments on Appeal

         Simons contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. He argues that the RFC for reaching exceeded his functional capacity, and that the ALJ erred in the weight he assigned to two doctors' opinions. For the following reasons, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.

         No medical records exist in the record for the two years following the alleged onset date, and the Court takes note of this. The failure to seek regular and continuing treatment contradicts allegations of disability. See Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F.3d 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997).

         After complaining of burning and numbness in his arms, along with neck pain, Simons had a nerve conduction study done on May 28, 2014. (Tr. at 298-300, 318-319). The study showed bilateral median neuropathy across the wrists of a mild to moderate nature, without active denervation or reinnervation. Id. No polyneuropathy or myopathy was present. Id. Carpal tunnel ...


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