United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER
Ring applied for social security disability benefits alleging
an onset date of March 25, 2014. (R. at 66). An
administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing, after which he
denied the application. (R. at 23). The Appeals Council
denied review. (R. at 1). Ms. Ring has requested judicial
review, and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the magistrate judge.
The Commissioner's Decision
found that Ms. Ring had the following severe impairments:
dual chamber pacemaker for heart disease, syncope, and
degeneration of the cervical and lumbar spine status post
neck surgery. (R. at 12). The ALJ held that Ms. Ring had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform the full range
of sedentary work. (R. at 15). A vocational expert (VE)
testified that Ms. Ring's RFC would allow her to perform
her past relevant work as a customer service clerk and data
entry clerk. (R. at 21). Therefore, the ALJ held that Ms.
Ring was not disabled. (R. at 22-23).
Court reviews the record to determine whether substantial
evidence on the record as a whole supports the
Commissioner's findings. 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 the
ALJ's decision.” Slusser v. Astrue, 557
F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).
Ring argues that the ALJ failed to sufficiently account for
her neurocardiogenic syncope; that he improperly weighed her
treating physician's opinion; and that he relied on
incorrect VE testimony.
Ring first argues that the RFC assigned by the ALJ did not
adequately account for her limitations due to
neurocardiogenic syncope. The record shows that Ms. Ring
suffered from fainting spells that led her to quit working.
(R. at 38). During a tilt table test in March 2014, Ms. Ring
fainted, a result that was “markedly positive”
for neurocardiogenic syncope. (R. at 290). She was scheduled
for a pacemaker implantation that same day. (R. at 265).
Since the pacemaker was implanted, Ms. Ring has denied
episodes of syncope. (R. at 42, 358, 447).
Ms. Ring states that the ALJ did not take into account a
follow-up surgery she had three months after the pacemaker
was implanted, this assertion is incorrect. The ALJ
specifically discussed the lead revision that Ms. Ring
underwent in June 2014. (R. at 17). Ms. Ring also maintains
that she has continued to suffer episodes of passing out even
after the pacemaker was implanted. However, this argument is
at odds with her own testimony. (R. at 42). It is true that
she testified to dizzy spells and lightheadedness, but she
explicitly stated that she had not fainted. There is no
medical documentation of additional episodes of syncope to
support her contention. Therefore, the Court must conclude
that the ALJ's findings concerning Ms. Ring's
neurocardiogenic syncope are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole.
Treating Physician's Opinion
Ring next argues that the ALJ improperly discounted the
opinion of her treating physician, Justin Dawson, M.D. A
treating physician's opinion is ordinarily entitled to
controlling weight if it is supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and if the
opinion is not inconsistent with other evidence in the
record. Hamilton v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 607, 610 (8th
Cir. 2008). Whatever weight the ALJ gives the opinion, he or
she must give good reason for giving that weight.
Id. Further, a treating physician's opinion will
not be granted controlling weight where it is simply a
conclusory statement. Id.
Dawson opined that Ms. Ring could never lift more than ten
pounds; could stand or walk for only two hours in an
eight-hour workday; could sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday; would have to change positions frequently, have
frequent rest periods, take longer than normal breaks, and be
able to shift at will from sitting to standing; could not
reach; could only occasionally finger and handle; would have
to avoid all exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, high
humidity, fumes, odors, dust, gas, perfumes, soldering
fluxes, solvents/cleaners, chemicals, and sunlight; and would
miss more than three days of work per month due to her
medical conditions. (R. at 484). He also stated an opinion
that “she is fully disabled from her cardiogenic
syncope.” (R. at 523).
fully considered Dr. Dawson's opinion. (R. at 19-20). As
noted, Ms. Ring denied episodes of syncope after her
pacemaker implantation. This calls into question Dr.
Dawson's assessment. Furthermore, as the ALJ noted, Dr.
Dawson's reasoning for these limitations is absent from
his statement. Instead he merely referred to Ms. Ring's
neurocardiogenic syncope and mentioned degenerative changes
in her lumbar and cervical spine. (R. at 20, 484). Dr.
Dawson's second opinion is a mere conclusion that is
entitled to no weight. Because his opinions conflict with the
record evidence and is not well supported by the record, the
Court cannot conclude that the ALJ erred in giving Dr.
Dawson's opinion little weight.