United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Glenda Malena, 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 her claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions
of Title II 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 her current application for DIB on March
16, 2015, alleging an inability to work since November 22,
2014, due to Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). (Tr. 59,
76). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status
through September 30, 2016. (Tr. 59, 76). An administrative
hearing was held on June 6, 2016, at which Plaintiff appeared
with counsel and testified. (Tr. 38-52). Debra Steele,
Vocational Expert (VE), also testified. (Tr. 52-57).
written opinion dated July 8, 2016, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: complex
regional pain syndrome, regional sympathetic dystrophy,
obesity, migraines, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder,
and depressive disorder. (Tr. 15). However, after reviewing
the evidence in its entirety, the ALJ determined that the
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level
of severity of any listed impairments described in Appendix 1
of the Regulations (20 CFR, Subpart P, Appendix 1). (Tr.
15-17). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(b), with the following exceptions:
[Claimant can] occasionally grasp, lift, push, or pull with
the left non-dominant upper extremity; no exposure to
extremes of cold; occasional exposure to dust, fumes, smoke,
or chemicals; can understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions and tasks, and can concentrate on those tasks
for extended periods of two or more hours at a time.
(Tr. 17). With the help of VE testimony, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work
as a machine operator. (Tr. 22). However, based on the
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of work as a public
area attendant or a photo finishing clerk. (Tr. 23).
Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff had not been
under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security
Act during the relevant time period of November 22, 2014, the
alleged onset date, and July 8, 2016, the date of the
ALJ's opinion. (Tr. 23).
Plaintiff requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, and that request was denied on July 15,
2017. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed a Petition for Judicial
Review of the matter on September 13, 2017. (Doc. 1). Both
parties have submitted briefs, and this case is before the
undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs. 15, 16).
Court has reviewed the transcript in its entirety. The
complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
hearing before the ALJ on June 6, 2016, Plaintiff testified
that she was forty-six years of age. She testified that she
finished the tenth grade and later obtained her GED and her
CNA license. (Tr. 41). Plaintiff's past relevant work
consisted of work as a machine operator. (Tr. 52-53).
the relevant time period, Plaintiff was seen by various
healthcare providers for the following health issues: left
hand and arm pain due to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a
persistent cough, anxiety, common migraine headaches, and a
possible allergic reaction. During that time, Plaintiff had
the following tests that yielded normal results: an x-ray of
her chest, a CT scan of the soft tissue of the neck, an x-ray
of her left wrist, mammograms, an EMG evaluation for carpal
tunnel syndrome, an x-ray of the left hand, and a MRI of the
cervical spine, which showed only minor chronic degenerative
changes. Prior to the relevant time period, Plaintiff was
treated conservatively with medication and multiple ganglion
evidence during the relevant time period reflects that
Plaintiff was seen at FS&V Physical Therapy for an
evaluation of the symptoms in her left arm, where therapist
Mary McKinley recommended therapy twice a week for eight
weeks. (Tr. 360).
February 10, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Kelly Hubbard at
Arkansas Pain Specialists for complaints of pain in her left
hand, wrist, thumb, index, and middle finger. (Tr. 298). A
physical exam of Plaintiff's left upper extremity
strength, left shoulder, and left elbow was normal. However,
Plaintiff's left wrist was tender with decreased range of
motion, and Phalen's test was positive for carpal tunnel
syndrome. (Tr. 301). Plaintiff was assessed with severe
allodynia of the left hand and wrist and a note was made
about a previous diagnosis of RDS. (Tr. 303). Dr. Hubbard
also noted moderate depression. (Tr. 303).
4, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. John Jacobs, her primary
care physician, at River Valley Primary Care for abdomen pain
and swelling, nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite. (Tr.
330). Dr. Jacobs prescribed medication and ordered additional
tests. (Tr. 332). An abdominal ultrasound performed on May 5,
2015, showed fatty infiltration of the liver and a mildly
prominent common bile duct. The remainder of the exam was
unremarkable. (Tr. 340).
18, 2015, Plaintiff presented to Mercy Hospital with
complaints of abdominal pain. Hospital records indicate
Plaintiff had recently received normal results from a CT scan
of her abdomen. (Tr. 312). Records also indicate that an
endoscopy report showed the possibility of little
inflammatory change in the upper stomach, very minimal change
in the distal stomach, no ulcerations, no other lesions, and
good motility. (Tr. 316). Dr. John Smith's notes indicate
that Plaintiff's endoscopy results were not in line with
Plaintiff's symptoms. (Tr. 316). Plaintiff was ...