United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division
Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has
been sent to Judge James M. Moody Jr. Any party may file
written objections to this Recommendation. Objections should
be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for
considered, objections must be received in the office of the
Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no
objections are filed, Judge Moody can adopt this
Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By
not objecting, parties may also waive any right to appeal
questions of fact.
4, 2015, Jennifer Hart applied for disability benefits,
alleging disability beginning April 22, 2015. (Tr. at 16) Her
claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) also denied her application.
(Tr. at 30) Ms. Hart 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 Commissioner's final decision. Ms. Hart filed this
case seeking judicial review of the decision denying her
The Commissioner's Decision:
time of the hearing, Ms. Hart measured 5'5” and
weighed 301 pounds. (Tr. at 63) The ALJ found that Ms. Hart
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date of April 22, 2015. (Tr. at 18) At step two
of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Hart had
the following severe impairments: multiple sclerosis,
degenerative disc disease, affective disorders, anxiety
disorders, and obesity. Id.
finding that Ms. Hart's impairments did not meet or equal
a listed impairment (Tr. at 19), the ALJ determined that Ms.
Hart had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform the full range of work at the sedentary level with
some additional limitations. (Tr. at 21) She could only
frequently reach, handle, finger, and feel. Id. She
could only occasionally climb ramps and stairs and balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Id. She could never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id. She must
avoid unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, extreme
heat and cold, and pulmonary irritants. Id. She must
be able to use a cane to ambulate to and from her
workstation. Id. Mentally, she could perform simple,
routine, repetitive tasks and make simple work-related
decisions. Id. She could work where interpersonal
contact is incidental to the work performed and where
supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. Id.
found that Ms. Hart was unable to perform any past relevant
work. (Tr. at 28) At step five, the ALJ relied on the
testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find,
based on Ms. Hart's age, education, work experience and
RFC, that she was capable of performing work in the national
economy as document preparer and call-out phone clerk. (Tr.
at 29) Based on that determination, the ALJ held that Ms.
Hart was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
appeal, the Court must review the Commissioner's decision
for legal error and assure that the decision is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. 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.
Hart's Arguments on Appeal
Hart contends that the Commissioner's decision to deny
benefits lacks substantial supporting evidence. She argues
that the ALJ failed to resolve an apparent conflict between
the VE's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles (“DOT”) and that the ALJ improperly
discounted the opinion of Dr. Roger Troxel, M.D. She further
argues that she suffers from moderate difficulties in
concentration, persistence, and pace, and that the ALJ did
not account for these deficiencies in the RFC. Finally, she
contends that the RFC for light work exceeds her
Hart suffered from back and neck pain arising from
degenerative disc disease. A May 2015 thoracic MRI showed
multilevel disc degeneration. (Tr. at 388) But, a February
2014 lumbar MRI was normal. (Tr. at 56) Normal examination
findings are not indicative of disabling pain. Gowell v.
Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 2001). At six
doctors' visits in 2014 and 2015, Ms. Hart denied
musculoskeletal symptoms. (Tr. at 346, 351, 356, 362, 374,
380) In May 2015, Ms. Hart had normal range-of-motion in her