United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
November 25, 2014, Betty Boyce applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning on November 5, 2014.
(Tr. at 63) Ms. Boyce's claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a
hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
denied Ms. Boyce's application. (Tr. at 71) Ms. Boyce
requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore,
the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of
the Commissioner. Ms. Boyce filed this case seeking judicial
review of the decision denying her benefits.
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Boyce had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the onset of her alleged disability, November
5, 2014. (Tr. at 65) At step two of the five-step analysis,
the ALJ found that Ms. Boyce had the following severe
impairments: back pain, bilateral knee pain, and
finding that Ms. Boyce's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 65), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Boyce had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at the
light exertional level, with some limitations. She could only
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, and bend, and she could
never crouch, kneel, or crawl. (Tr. at 66)
found that Ms. Boyce was unable to perform any of her past
relevant work. (Tr. at 27) At step five, however, the ALJ
relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
(“VE”) to find that, based on Ms. Boyce's
age, education, work experience and RFC, she was capable of
performing work in the national economy as sales attendant
and inspector. (Tr. at 71) The ALJ determined, therefore,
that Ms. Boyce was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
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 “enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support he ALJ's decision.”
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009)(citation omitted). In making this determination, 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) (citation omitted).
Boyce's Arguments on Appeal
appeal, Ms. Boyce contends that the ALJ's decision to
deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. She
argues that the RFC assigned by the ALJ failed to incorporate
all of her limitations arising from her back condition. She
also challenges the ALJ's credibility analysis.
Boyce presented with back pain on February 10, 2014, and a
straight-leg raise test was positive. (Tr. at 356-357) She
was prescribed hydrocodone. Id. On February 17,
2014, a lumbar MRI revealed mild degenerative spondylosis
with mild canal stenosis and hypertrophic facet arthropathy.
(Tr. at 11) Objective tests showing mild-to-moderate
conditions do not support a finding of disability.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th
Cir. 2004). On February 25, 2014, Tim Maryanov, M.D.,
referenced a “near normal” MRI with no
“significant neural element compromise.” (Tr. at
359) He also noted improvement with steroid injections, but
stated that Ms. Boyce had a long history of intractable back
pain. (Tr. at 359-360) This opinion appears to be
contradictory, and when a physician's notes are
internally inconsistent, the ALJ may give the opinion less
deference. Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 803
(8th Cir. 2005). Dr. Maryanov did not refer Ms. Boyce for
surgery. (Tr. at 360)
Boyce went to physical therapy for low back pain 12 times in
March and April of 2014. (Tr. at 363-375) She began seeing
pain specialist Jeffrey Hall, M.D., and he administered
lumbar facet injections. (Tr. at 511-522) In May 2014, Ms.
Boyce's doctor recommended she stay active and lose
weight. (Tr. at 461) In fact, this was recommended throughout
the relevant time period. (Tr. at 14-22, 453) A
physician's recommendation to ...