United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Little Rock Division
T. KEARNEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Kristine Baker. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
FOR RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
Dollar applied for social security disability benefits with
an alleged onset date of April 17, 2015. (R. at 95). After a
hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied her
application. (R. at 50). The Appeals Council denied her
request for review. (R. at 1). The ALJ's decision now
stands as the Commissioner's final decision, and Dollar
has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the magistrate judge recommends
reversing and remanding the Commissioner's decision.
The Commissioner's Decision
found that Dollar had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia
and migraines. (R. at 45). The ALJ then found that
Dollar's impairments left her with the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work except
that she would be limited to simple, routine, or repetitive
tasks involving only simple work-related decisions with few,
if any, workplace changes, and no more than incidental
contact with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public.
(R. at 46). The RFC precluded Dollar's past relevant
work. (R. at 130). However, a vocational expert (VE)
testified that a person with Dollar's RFC could perform
jobs such as document preparer or addresser. (R. at 49-50).
The ALJ therefore held that Dollar was not disabled. (R. at
Court is to affirm the ALJ's decision if it is not based
on legal error and is supported by “substantial
evidence in the record as a whole, ” which is more than
a scintilla but less than a preponderance. Long v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997). The Court
considers evidence supporting and evidence detracting from
the Commissioner's decision, but it will not reverse
simply because substantial evidence could support a different
outcome. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
argues that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the
record, failed to fully consider evidence detracting from his
findings, failed to perform a proper credibility assessment,
improperly weighed her treating physician's opinion,
erred in the RFC determination, and failed to satisfy his
burden at step five. As the undersigned finds that the ALJ
failed to properly consider the evidence, it is not necessary
to reach Dollar's other points.
has a duty to ensure that the record contains evidence from a
treating or examining physician addressing the particular
impairments at issue. Strongson v. Barnhart, 361
F.3d 1066, 1071-72 (8th Cir. 2004). In this case, the ALJ
gave little weight to the opinion of Dollar's treating
physician as well as the opinions of the State Agency
consultants. (R. at 47-48). Without the benefit of a
physician's opinions concerning Dollar's limitations,
the ALJ only had his own assessment of the raw medical data
to draw upon. It is not permissible for the ALJ to
“play doctor, ” as the ALJ appears to have done
here. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 946-47
(8th Cir. 2009). The ALJ himself noted that the medical
record was small in this case. (R. at 89).
the ALJ did not consider any of Dollar's alleged mental
impairments. Dollar argues that the ALJ erred in failing to
order a consultative examination regarding her mental
impairments. The Commissioner argues that Dollar failed to
properly allege mental impairments and that her mental
impairments were not apparent during the application process.
The undersigned must disagree. Dollar clearly alleged
depressive disorder, anxiety, and panic disorder. (R. at 95).
Furthermore, Dollar testified regarding her mental
impairments before the ALJ. (R. at 75-76). While the
Commissioner is correct that there is little in the way of
medical records regarding Dollar's mental impairments,
the ALJ certainly had enough notice to at least address the
allegation of those impairments.
these things considered, it is difficult to hold the record
to be fully and fairly developed. The record does not contain