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Sanders v. Social Security Administration

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

February 8, 2019

TONYA L. SANDERS PLAINTIFF
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Billy Roy Wilson. Parties may file written objections to this Recommendation. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection.

         To be considered, objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Wilson can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, parties may also waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         On June 30, 2015, Tonya L. Sanders applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning April 30, 2015. (Tr. at 76) Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 87). Ms. Sanders requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Sanders filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision denying his benefits.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Sanders had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of April 30, 2015. (Tr. at 79) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Sanders had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, status post decompression and discectomy, anxiety, and depression. Id.

         After finding that Ms. Sanders's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 79), the ALJ determined that Ms. Sanders had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at the light level with additional limitations. (Tr. at 81). She could only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Id. She could occasionally work overhead and climb stairs or ladders. Id. She could perform simple, routine tasks and have occasional changes in the routine work setting. Id. She could tolerate only incidental contact with the public and coworkers. Id.

         The ALJ next found that Ms. Sanders was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 85) At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find, based on Ms. Sanders's age, education, work experience and RFC, that she could perform work in the national economy as motel cleaner and sales attendant. (Tr. at 87). Based on that finding, the ALJ held that Ms. Sanders was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         In this appeal, the Court must review the Commissioner's decision for legal error and 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).

         B. Ms. Sanders's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Sanders contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that the ALJ should have ordered a physical consultative medical examination, and because he did not, the RFC was inadequate. After reviewing the record as a whole, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err in denying benefits.

         Ms. Sanders suffered from back and neck pain arising from degenerative disc disease. An MRI showed mild-to-moderate lateral stenosis of the lumbar spine and moderately severe foramen stenosis. (Tr. at 483) X-rays of the lumbar spine showed mild scoliosis and moderately severe degenerative changes. (Tr. at 484) These testing results ...


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