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Rounsavall v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

September 6, 2018



         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection.

         To be considered, your objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Wilson can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         On April 3, 2015, Tonia Rounsavall applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning September 12, 2011. (Tr. at 14) Ms. Rounsavall's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 24) Ms. Rounsavall 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. Rounsavall filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision denying her benefits.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Rounsavall had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date of August 1, 2014. (Tr. at 16) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Rounsavall had the following severe impairments: fracture of right foot and left leg in May 2016, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, obesity, and affective disorder. Id.

         After finding that Ms. Rounsavall's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 16), the ALJ determined that Ms. Rounsavall had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of sedentary work, with additional limitations. (Tr. at 18) She could only occasionally reach overhead with her left upper extremity and only occasionally climb ramps or stairs. Id. She could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id. She could only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. Id. She could never work at unprotected heights or around moving mechanical parts. Id. She would be limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks and could make simple work-related decisions. Id. Supervision must be simple, direct, and complete. Id. She could only have incidental interpersonal contact with coworkers and the public. Id. She must be able to use a cane to ambulate. Id.

         The ALJ next found that Ms. Rounsavall was unable to perform her past relevant work. (Tr. at 23) At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Ms. Rounsavall's age, education, work experience and RFC, she was capable of performing work in the national economy as assembler and surveillance monitor. (Tr. at 24) Based on the determination, the ALJ held that Ms. Rounsavall was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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). 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).

         B. Ms. Rounsavall's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Rounsavall contends that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. She argues that the ALJ did not give proper weight to the opinions of Drs. Jason Brandt, Joseph Yao, and consultative examiner Samuel Hester. After reviewing the record as a whole, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err in denying benefits.

         Ms. Rounsavall complained of back pain and knee pain starting in 2013. An MRI of the left knee in November of 2013 showed degeneration without evidence of a surfacing tear, as well as bursitis and a tear of the patellofemoral ligament. (Tr. at ...

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