United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brandon Montgomery has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
his claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs,
and the case is ready for decision.
Montgomery claims that he became limited in his ability to
work due to arthropathies, mood disorders, bipolar disorder,
depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, shoulder
surgery, and hip issues. (SSA record at 43-44, 62, 78) After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) concluded that Mr. Montgomery had not been
under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security
Act (“the Act”) at any time from February 24,
2015 through the date of his decision, March 29, 2017.
(Id. at 24) The Appeals Council denied Mr.
Montgomery's request for review of the ALJ's
decision, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. (Id. at 1-5) Mr.
Montgomery then filed a complaint initiating this appeal.
Montgomery was 29 at the time of the hearing, had a
tenth-grade education and had passed his GED examination.
(Id. at 37) He lived with a friend. (Id.
37-38) He had past relevant work as a fast food worker, fry
cook, poultry packer, industrial cleaner, poultry deboner,
and cashier II. (Id. at 23, 52-56)
The ALJ's Decision:
determined that Mr. Montgomery had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 24, 2015, and that his
internal derangement of the right shoulder status-post two
operations, hepatitis C, and major depression with psychotic
features were severe impairments; but, he did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met a listed
impairment. (Id. at 17-19) He further found that Mr.
Montgomery's statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms were not
entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other
evidence in the record. (Id. at 19-20)
on these findings, the ALJ concluded that, during the
relevant period, Mr. Montgomery retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) for light work,
except that he was limited to occasional overhead reaching
and would need a job involving simple tasks and simple
instructions. (Id. at 19)
found that Mr. Montgomery could not perform his past relevant
work. (Id. at 23) Relying on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ held, based on
Mr. Montgomery's age, education, work experience and RFC,
that he could perform work in the national economy as a price
marker and plastics molding machine tender. (Id. at
24) The ALJ determined, therefore, that Mr. Montgomery was
not disabled. (Id. at 24)
Court's function on review is to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record and free of legal error.
Chismarich v. Berryhill, 888 F.3d 978, 979 (8th Cir.
2018); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence
in this context means enough relevant evidence that a
reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Id. (citing Jones v. Astrue,
619 F.3d 963, 968 (8th Cir. 2010) (other citation omitted).
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider
evidence in the record that supports the decision, and also,
evidence that detracts from the decision. Stanton v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 899 F.3d 555, 557 (8th
Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). Reversal is not warranted,
however, “merely because substantial evidence would
have supported an opposite decision.” Tilley v.
Astrue, 580 F.3d 675, 679 (8th Cir. 2009) (citations
Issues on Appeal
Montgomery claims that the ALJ's mental RFC assessment is
contrary to substantial evidence, because he failed to
properly evaluate and incorporate the opinion evidence. More
specifically, he claims that the ALJ erred by only limiting
him to work involving “simple tasks and simple
instructions” without including a limitation for work
that requires only minimal social interactions. (#11 at 4)
The Commissioner responds that the ALJ's RFC
determination is supported by substantial evidence and any
error was harmless. (#12 at 4-5)