United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Little Rock Division
STEPHANIE K. GREEN PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
T. KEARNEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. 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
Green applied for social security disability benefits with an
alleged onset date of June 27, 2013. (R. at 339). After a
hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied her
application. (R. at 291-92). The Appeals Council denied her
request for review. (R. at 1). The ALJ's decision now
stands as the Commissioner's final decision, and Green
has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the magistrate judge recommends
reversing and remanding the Commissioner's decision.
The Commissioner's Decision
found that Green had the severe impairments of hypertension,
hypothyroidism, degenerative disk disease of the cervical
spine, headaches, urinary incontinence, and depression. (R.
at 279). The ALJ then found that Green's impairments left
him with the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform
light work except that she was limited to the performance of
work with simple tasks and simple instructions. (R. at 282).
The RFC precluded Green's past relevant work. (R. at
290). However, a vocational expert (VE) testified that a
person with Green's RFC could perform jobs such as office
helper, merchandise marker, or small products assembler. (R.
at 291). The ALJ therefore held that Green was not disabled.
(R. at 291).
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 include limitations related to impairments
identified as severe, failed to properly consider her hearing
loss, failed to grant her requests for consultative
examinations, failed to properly consider her credibility,
and erred in determining her RFC. As the undersigned finds
that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the record,
it is not necessary to reach Green'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). It is not permissible for
the ALJ to “play doctor, ” substituting his own
medical judgment for that of a physician. Pate-Fires v.
Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 946-47 (8th Cir. 2009).
one treating physician-Allan Kirkland, M.D.-provided an
opinion concerning Green's ability to function in the
workplace, and the ALJ gave little weight to his opinion. (R.
at 288-89). There were no consultative examinations or
opinions from other treating physicians as to Green's
limitations. Without Dr. Kirkland's opinion, the ALJ only
had the opinions of the non-examining State Agency
consultants and his own inferences to rely upon. The ALJ gave
great weight to the opinions of the State Agency consultants,
but such opinions from non-examining sources are not entitled
to such weight. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 452
(8th Cir. 2000). The ALJ did not fulfill his duty to properly
develop the record with evidence from a treating or examining
Green made specifically requested that the ALJ order
consultative examinations or contact treating sources for
their opinions concerning her ability to work. (R. at 585,
589). The ALJ relied on his own interpretation of treatment