United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
SHARON M. CARLSEN PLAINTIFF
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to Chief Judge
Brian S. Miller. Any party may file written objections to
this Recommendation. Objections should explain the factual or
legal basis for the objection. To be considered, objections
must be received by the Clerk of Court within 14 days of this
Recommendation. By not objecting, parties risk waiving the
right to appeal questions of fact.
Carlsen applied for social security disability benefits with
an alleged disability onset date of January 1, 2011. (R. at
76). After a hearing, the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) denied the application. (R. at 50). The
Appeals Council denied review. (R. at 1). Ms. Carlsen
requested judicial review, and the district court reversed
and remanded. (R. at 435-38). After another hearing, the ALJ
once again denied her application. (R. at 338). The Appeals
Council declined to take further action. (R. at 325). Ms.
Carlsen filed this appeal, again requesting judicial review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
Carlsen was last insured under the terms of the Social
Security Act on September 30, 2011. (R. at 332). The ALJ
found that, through the date last insured, Ms. Carlsen had
the following severe impairments: asthma and fatigue. (R. at
332). Due to those impairments, the ALJ found that, through
the date last insured, Ms. Carlsen had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work except she was limited to occasional climbing, stooping,
crouching, kneeling, and crawling; would have to avoid heavy
chemicals, dust, fumes, humidity, and strong perfume; and
would have to work inside in a climate-controlled
environment. (R. at 333). The ALJ found that this RFC would
allow Ms. Carlsen to perform her past relevant work as a
transportation broker as actually performed. (R. at 338). The
ALJ, therefore, found that Ms. Carlsen was not disabled. (R.
Court's duty in this appeal is to review the
Commissioner's decision for legal error and to assure
that the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the
whole record. Brown v. Colvin, 825 F.3d 936, 939
(8th Cir. 2016) (citing Halverson v. Astrue, 600
F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir. 2010)). Stated another way, the
decision must rest on enough evidence that “a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support [the]
conclusion.” Halverson, 600 F.3d at 929. The
Court will not reverse the decision, however, solely because
there is evidence to support a conclusion different from that
reached by the Commissioner. Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433
F.3d 575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006).
Carlsen argues that the ALJ erred in finding that her
depression and anxiety were non-severe impairments. She also
argues that the ALJ's decision is otherwise not supported
by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
specifically found that Ms. Carlsen's depression and
anxiety were not severe impairments, despite diagnoses. (R.
at 332). Ms. Carlsen had been prescribed medication for
anxiety and depression, namely Wellbutrin, Buspar, and
Doxepin. (R. at 303, 307). Despite this, there is no evidence
of other treatment for anxiety or depression during the
relevant time period. While Ms. Carlsen did testify that she
lacked insurance at the time, this testimony is insufficient
to overcome the lack of medical evidence pointing to a severe
mental impairment. (R. at 370-71, 375). The objective medical
evidence and treatment records simply do not show that Ms.
Carlsen's depression and anxiety imposed more than
minimal limitations on her ability to work.
the record is sparse concerning Ms. Carlsen's physical
limitations during the relevant period. Ms. Carlsen's
treating physician opined that she had severe limitations
during the relevant period, but this opinion was rendered in
April 2015, well after the relevant period ended. (R. at
317-24). Treatment records contain nothing to support the
level of limitation that Ms. Carlsen's treating physician
found. The lack of treatment and the lack of support for the
treating physician's opinion make it difficult to
conclude that the ALJ's decision is unsupported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
may not reverse simply because it would have decided case
differently. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015). The only question before the Court is
whether there is evidence that a reasonable mind would find
sufficient to support the ALJ's decision. Id.
Because the medical evidence does not support a finding
limitation to the extent that Ms. Carlsen alleges, the
ALJ's decision should be affirmed.
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence on
the record as a whole and is not based on legal error. For
these reasons, the ...