United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western 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.
8, 2016, Ronnie Wayne Lakey applied for disability benefits,
alleging disability beginning December 11, 2011. (Tr. at 21)
His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) also denied his application.
(Tr. at 32) Mr. Lakey 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. Mr. Lakey filed this
case seeking judicial review of the decision denying his
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Lakey had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity from the alleged onset date of December 11, 2011
through the date last-insured of December 31, 2016. (Tr. at
23) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that
Mr. Lakey had the following severe impairments:
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint
disease, hypertension, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), obstructive sleep apnea, and obesity.
finding that Mr. Lakey's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 24), the ALJ determined
that Mr. Lakey had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at the
sedentary level with some additional limitations. (Tr. at 25)
He could only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
Id. He could not climb ramps, ladders, or scaffolds,
and could not perform overhead reaching with the right upper
extremity. Id. He would require the use of a cane
for ambulating and balancing. Id. He could perform
work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work
performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed
by rote with few variables and little judgment, and the
supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.
found that Mr. Lakey was unable to perform any past relevant
work. (Tr. at 30) At step five, the ALJ relied on the
testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find,
based on Mr. Lakey's age, education, work experience and
RFC, that he was capable of performing work in the national
economy as surveillance monitor and assembler. (Tr. at 31-32)
Based on the determination, the ALJ held that Mr. Lakey 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. 2006).
Lakey's Arguments on Appeal
Lakey contends that the Commissioner's decision to deny
benefits lacks substantial supporting evidence. He argues
that the ALJ should have considered and discussed Mr.
Lakey's Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”)
rating and unemployability status. Further, he argues that
the Appeals Council did not fully consider the new evidence
Mr. Lakey submitted, to his detriment.
Lakey complained of left knee, right shoulder, and low back
pain. But knee and shoulder x-rays were normal in 2011. (Tr.
at 336-339). Mr. Lakey experienced relief from pain with an
AC joint injection in his shoulder. (Tr. at 536). Lumbar
x-rays revealed mild degenerative disc disease, which the ALJ
found to be a severe impairment. (Tr. at 338). On two
occasions, Mr. Lakey had negative straight-leg raises, and
the range of motion in his spine was generally normal. (Tr.
at 345-349, 2144-2147) An MRI of the lumbar spine revealed
stable degenerative changes, with disc bulges, and some
foraminal narrowing. (Tr. at 666) Mr. Lakey said that
Flexeril and Gabapentin helped with pain, as did a TENS unit
and massages. (Tr. at 74-77, 380). In March 2016, Mr. Lakey
had no ankylosis or muscle spasm and walked with a normal
gait. (Tr. at 1455). Still, his doctor found ...