United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
August 24, 2015, LaDonna Smithee applied for supplemental
security income benefits, alleging disability beginning on
September 1, 2015. (Tr. at 19) Her claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 37) Ms.
Smithee 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. Smithee 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. Smithee had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of September 1, 2015.
(Tr. at 21) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ
found that Ms. Smithee had the following severe impairments:
borderline intellectual functioning, adjustment disorder with
depressed mood, peripheral neuropathy, systemic lupus
erythrematosus, and other arthropathies. (Tr. at 22)
finding that Ms. Smithee's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 23), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Smithee had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at the
light exertional level, with some limitations. She could
climb ramps and stairs occasionally, but could never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. (Tr. at 29) She could
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
Id. She could never work at unprotected heights or
around moving mechanical parts. Id. Mentally, she
would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, but
could make simple work-related decisions. Id. She
could work where supervision is simple and direct.
Id. She could have only incidental interpersonal
contact with co-workers and the public. Id.
found that Ms. Smithee was unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. at 35) At step five, the ALJ relied on
the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to
find, based on Ms. Smithee's age, education, work
experience and RFC, that she was capable of performing work
in the national economy as price tagger, which is light,
unskilled work, with an SVP of 2. (Tr. at 36) The ALJ
determined, therefore, that Ms. Smithee was not disabled.
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 the 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).
Smithee's Arguments on Appeal
appeal, Ms. Smithee contends that the ALJ's decision to
deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. She
argues that the ALJ erred by not finding her coronary artery
disease to be a severe impairment. She asserts that the RFC
provides for work that is beyond her functional capacity and
that the ALJ erred by not including borderline intellectual
functioning in the hypothetical posed to the VE. Finally, she
contends that the Appeals Council erred by not considering
records from Dr. Dickson.
found, at step two, that Ms. Smithee's coronary artery
disease was not a severe impairment. (Tr. at 22) The record
shows that Ms. Smithee presented to Barry Tedder, M.D., in
January 2015, complaining of shortness of breath. (Tr. at
344) Dr. Tedder diagnosed lupus and hyperlipidemia. (Tr. at
347) He ordered an echocardiogram and counseled Ms. Smithee
on exercise and diet. (Tr. at 347)
echocardiogram showed a ventrical ejection fraction of
60-65%, which is within normal range. (Tr. at 371-372) The
aortic and mitral valve were normal in structure and
function. (Tr. at 372) Ventricular systolic pressure was
normal. Id. Normal examination findings such as
these do not indicate that a ...