United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Little Rock Division
Procedures for Filing Objections:
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge James Moody. 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.
Shock (“Shock”) applied for social security
disability benefits with an amended alleged disability onset
date of July 13, 2013. (R. at 55-56). After a hearing, the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) denied his
application. (R. at 24). The Appeals Council denied review.
(R. at 1). Shock has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court recommends reversing and
remanding the Commissioner's decision.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Shock had the severe impairments of degenerative
disk disease; fracture of lower extremity; left eye
blindness; borderline intellectual functioning; affective
disorder; and obesity. (R. at 14). The ALJ then found that
Shock's impairments left him with the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to lift and/or carry twenty
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; push and/or
pull within those limitations; stand and/or walk six hours in
an eight-hour workday with normal breaks; sit six hours a day
in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks; occasionally use
depth perception and peripheral vision; perform jobs that do
not require complex written communication or math skills
beyond grade school level; perform jobs that can be performed
while using a handheld assistive device for prolonged
ambulation; work where interpersonal contact is incidental to
the work performed and where the complexity of tasks is
learned and performed by rote with few variables and little
judgment; and work with supervision that is simple, direct,
and concrete. (R. at 17).
vocational expert (“VE”) testified that
Shock's RFC would preclude his past relevant work. (R. at
22). The VE testified, however, that the RFC would allow for
jobs such as price marker, routing clerk, and power screw
driver operator. (R. at 23). Relying on the VE's
testimony, the ALJ concluded that Shock was not disabled. (R.
argues that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the
record, failed to consider evidence that detracted from his
findings, erred in his credibility analysis, erred in
weighing the treating physician's opinion, failed to
include all of Shock's limitations in the RFC, and failed
to satisfy his burden at step five of the sequential
carefully reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the
record was not fully and fairly developed by the
Specifically, in his decision, the ALJ gave little weight to
the opinion of Shock's treating physicians and supported
his RFC determination based on the opinions of non-examining
State Agency reviewing physicians' opinions.
must fully and fairly develop the record independent of the
claimant's burden to press his or her case. Combs v.
Berryhill, 878 F.3d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 2017).
“This duty includes the responsibility of ensuring that
the record includes evidence from a treating physician, or at
least an examining physician, addressing the particular
impairments at issue.” Strongson v. Barnhart,
361 F.3d 1066, 1071-72 (8th Cir. 2004). However, the ALJ need
only seek additional evidence where a critical issue is
under-developed. Martise v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 909,
926-27 (8th Cir. 2011).
gave little weight to the opinion of William Scott, M.D.,
Shock's treating physician. (R. at 22). According to Dr.
Scott, Shock was capable of low stress jobs; could sit for
ten minutes at a time; stand for twenty minutes at a time;
sit for less than two hours total in an eight-hour day;
stand/walk for less than two hours total in an eight-hour
day; must walk for ten minutes every ten minutes; required an
at-will sitting/standing option, would need to take
unscheduled breaks every fifteen minutes for ten minutes
each; must use a cane when standing/walking; could rarely
lift less than ten pounds and never more; could occasionally
look down; rarely turn his head left or right; rarely look
up; occasionally hold his head in a static position; rarely
twist, stoop, crouch/squat, or balance; never climb ladders
or stairs, kneel, or crawl, and would miss more than four
days of work per month due to his impairments. (R. at
590-93). The ALJ stated that Dr. Scott's opinion relied
heavily on Shock's subjective statements and was not
supported by the rest of the evidence, including Dr.
Scott's treatment records. (R. at 22). The ALJ did not
identify any specific inconsistencies between Dr. Scott's
treatment records and his opinion. After independently
reviewing Dr. Scott's treatment records, the Court is
unable to identify how Dr. Scott's treatment records fail
to support his opinion of Shock's limitations. The ALJ
then relied on the opinions of non-examining State Agency
reviewing physicians to support his RFC determination. (R. at
were the only opinions from medical sources concerning
Shock's physical ability to work. The ALJ concluded that
Shock was not as limited as he alleged due to the inferences
he drew from the notations and treatment notes of
Shock's physicians. (R. at 18-20). The Eighth Circuit
held that an ALJ is not free to draw his own inferences from
medical treatment records and must seek additional
information when a relevant medical issue is underdeveloped.
Combs v. Berryhill, 878 F.3d 642, 646-47 (8th Cir.
2017). The ALJ relied upon findings in a single physical
examination performed by Reza Shahim, M.D. such as intact
pulses in both upper and lower extremities, 5/5 motor
strength, a lack of edema, and symmetrical reflexes to
support his findings that Shock's musculoskeletal pain ...