United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
February 28, 2014, Lillie Sinko applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning on April 1, 2011.
(Tr. at 26) Ms. Sinko's claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a
hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
denied Ms. Sinko's application. (Tr. at 38-39) Ms. Sinko
requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore,
the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Ms. Sinko filed this case seeking judicial
review of the decision denying her benefits.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Sinko had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity from the amended alleged onset date of April 1,
2011, through her date last insured, March 31, 2015. (Tr. at
28) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that
Ms. Sinko had the following severe impairments: disorder of
the back, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary
finding that Ms. Sinko's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 29), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Sinko had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at the
medium exertional level. (Tr. at 30). There were no
non-exertional restrictions included in the RFC finding.
on this RFC, the ALJ determined that Ms. Sinko was able to
perform her past relevant work as a production line solderer
and assembler. (Tr. at 37) However, the ALJ made an alternate
finding at step five. He relied on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on
her age, education, work experience and RFC, Ms. Sinko could
perform other work in the national economy, such as laundry
worker and dining room attendant. (Tr. at 38) The ALJ
determined, therefore, that Ms. Sinko was not disabled.
Standard of Review
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). In making this determination, 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).
Sinko's Arguments on Appeal
appeal, Ms. Sinko maintains that the ALJ's decision to
deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. She
argues that the ALJ erred by finding her capable of work at
the medium level.
claimant's RFC represents the most she can do despite the
combined effects of all credible limitations and must be
based on all credible evidence. McCoy v. Astrue, 648
F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). In determining a
claimant's RFC, the ALJ has a duty to establish, by
competent medical evidence, the physical and mental activity
that the claimant could perform in a work setting, giving
appropriate consideration to all impairments. Ostronski
v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 418 (8th Cir. 1996).
Sinko asserts that she suffers from disabling high blood
pressure. The evidence shows, however, that she was
non-compliant in taking her medication and that, when she did
take medication, her blood pressure readings improved. (Tr.
at 279, 377). A failure to follow a recommended course of
treatment weighs against a claimant's credibility.
Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 802 (8th Cir.
2005). In July 2014, Ms. Sinko reported that she had not
taken blood pressure medication for “some time.”
In January of 2015, her cardiologist noted that Ms.
Sinko's blood pressure was well-controlled with
medication. (Tr. at 377, 430) Impairments that are
controllable or amenable to treatment do not support a
finding of total disability. Mittlestedt v. Apfel,
204 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2000). Ms. Sinko conceded that
medication controlled her high blood pressure condition. (Tr.
in her brief, Ms. Sinko cites only to her high blood pressure
readings, but the record also reflects normal readings during
the relevant time-period. (Tr. at 302, 399, 400, 432) A
medical consultative examiner, Donita Keown, M.D., stated
that, given adequate management of her blood pressure, Ms.
Sinko could perform medium work with no assistive devices.
(Tr. at 448) The ALJ properly gave Dr. Keown's opinion
great weight, because it was consistent with the medical