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Manuel v. Berryhill

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

November 8, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT




         The 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.


         Mandy Manuel applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged disability onset date of January 1, 2015. (R. at 58). After a hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied her application. (R. at 24). The Appeals Council denied Manuel's request for review. (R. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the Commissioner's final decision, and Manuel has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the magistrate judge recommends affirming the Commissioner's decision.

         I. The Commissioner's Decision

         The ALJ found that Manuel had the severe impairments of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, bilateral hearing loss, and obesity. (R. at 12). As a result of the impairments, the ALJ determined that Manuel had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work except that she could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; occasionally reach overhead; must avoid noise above the moderate level due to hearing loss; would be limited to communicating and hearing simple oral instructions; and would be limited to simple, routine tasks, with occasional changes in the routine work setting. (R. at 15). The ALJ took testimony from a vocational expert (VE) and determined that Manuel could not perform her past relevant work. (R. at 22). The VE testified, however, that the RFC would allow jobs such as sales attendant or office helper. (R. at 23). The ALJ therefore held that Manuel was not disabled. (R. at 24).

         II. Summary of Medical Evidence

         Manuel presented to Charles Varela, M.D. on January 12, 2015 with bilateral anterior shoulder pain and occasional numbness in the median distribution of both hands. She had full range of motion in both shoulders and marked tenderness at the anterior acromion bilaterally. The impression was bilateral subacromial bursitis and mild bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Varela performed subacromial injections in both shoulders, advised her to restrict overhead activities and use anti-inflammatories; and advised her that she would not be a candidate for carpal tunnel surgery unless her symptoms worsened significantly. (R. at 330).

         Manuel visited James Allen, M.D. on February 19, 2015 with continued complaints of shoulder pain, with the left worse than the right. (R. at 334). She had localized tenderness to palpation, pain with range of motion, and diffuse weakness. (R. at 336). An MRI was conducted on February 23, 2015, which showed mild supraspinatus tendinopathy without a discrete tear, no partial or full-thickness rotator cuff tear; minimal intra-articular biceps tendinopathy; and minimal reactive edema at the acromial clavicular joint. (R. at 337). She returned for follow-up on March 3, 2015, when she stated that her discomfort had been improving since her last visit. (R. at 339). Treatment options were discussed, and Manuel opted for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication management for the time. (R. at 341).

         On May 31, 2015, Michael Carter, D.N.P., A.P.R.N. stated that he recalled treating Manuel between October 2009 and March 2014. (R. at 344). He stated that she kept appointments and that her torn right rotator cuff and multiple muscle aches and pains prevented her from performing some aspects of her job. (R. at 344). He stated that her pain did not respond to the treatment his practice could offer. (R. at 344).

         On September 10, 2015, Manuel saw Neeraj Kumar, M.D. for back and hip pain and bilateral shoulder pain. (R. at 576). A history of fibromyalgia and left rotator cuff tear was noted. (R. at 576). Dr. Kumar recommended diagnostic bilateral lumbar medical branch blocks at L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1. (R. at 578). Dr. Kumar also agreed to opioid therapy. (R. at 579). On October 8, 2015, Manuel stated that her pain had not changed significantly but was manageable with medications, that the medication improved her activity levels and quality of life, and that she experienced no side effects from the medication. (R. at 678). She reported being able to perform activities of daily living with her current medication regimen. (R. at 680). She reported exacerbation of her pain on December 2, 2015. (R. at 681). Medication was adjusted, and she was advised to avoid bed rest and maintain normal activities. (R. at 683). She reported on January 27, 2016, that her pain was not manageable with medications. (R. at 743). On March 16, 2016, Manuel returned for follow-up stating that her pain continued despite increasing her hydrocodone, that her pain was not well controlled, and that she wanted to consider intervention. (R. at 739). Dr. Kumar recommended diagnostic bilateral thoracic medial branch blocks and possible medial branch neurotomy if branch blocks proved successful. (R. at 741).

         Manuel presented to Amber Fore, A.P.R.N. on March 29, 2016 for back pain. (R. at 766). She was instructed to continue pain management and get a thoracic MRI. (R. at 769). On March 30, 2016, Nurse Fore filled out a medical source statement indicating that Manuel could lift and carry less than ten pounds; walk about two hours in an eight-hour workday; sit about two hours in an eight-hour workday; needed frequent rest periods, longer than normal breaks, and a sit/stand at will option; could not reach; could occasionally finger; could occasionally handle; and would miss more than three days of work per month. (R. at 748-49). Manuel ...

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