United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
SHERRI R. SMITH PLAINTIFF
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
HONORABLE MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Sherri R. Smith (“Smith”), brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her claim
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”), 42 U.S.C § 423(d)(1)(A). In
this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there
is substantial evidence in the administrative record to
support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
7, 2016, Plaintiff filed this application with an alleged
onset date of April 15, 2016, due to heart murmur, hand and
feet numbness, high blood pressure, and throat and neck pain.
(ECF No. 11, pp. 25, 222). Plaintiff was 51 years old at the
time of her application, possessed a twelfth-grade education,
and had past relevant work (“PRW”) experience as
a customer service representative/teller and new accounts
representative. (Id., pp. 35, 75). Her application
was denied initially on November 4, 2016, and again upon
reconsideration on March 20, 2017. (Id., p. 25).
Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on May 17,
2017, and the hearing was held on September 5, 2017, before
the Hon. Alexis Murdock, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Plaintiff was present and represented by
counsel, David Harp. (Id.).
December 21, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff's major
depressive disorder, anxiety, panic disorder with
agoraphobia, PTSD, osteoarthritis, DDD of the cervical spine,
DDD of the lumbar spine, hypertension, chronic tension
headaches, TMJ, and Eagle's Syndrome or elongated
styloid process syndrome to be severe. (Id., p. 28).
However, her alleged vertigo improved with medication and her
foot pain with bunion did not meet the durational
requirements for a severe impairment. (Id.). The ALJ
ultimately concluded Plaintiff did not have an impairment
that met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Id., pp. 28-30). The ALJ then found Plaintiff
capable of performing light work, except as follows:
“the claimant can understand, remember, and carry out
more than simple instructions and tasks, but no complex
instructions or tasks; can regulate her emotions, control
behavior, and maintain well-being in a work setting with
those instructions and tasks, as long as there are no
fast-paced production requirements, such as assembly-line
work; and can learn and recall in a work setting with those
instructions and tasks.” (Id., p. 30).
Although the Plaintiff could not perform her PRW, the ALJ
found she was capable of performing work as a content
checker, mail room clerk, and office helper. (Id.,
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
July 24, 2018. (Id., pp. 5-10). Plaintiff filed this
action on August 31, 2018. (ECF No. 1). Both parties have
filed appeal briefs (ECF Nos. 14, 15), and this matter is
ready for Report and Recommendation.
presents a history of mental and physical complaints dating
from the late 1990's, when she was initially treated for
feelings of tiredness, depression, and complaints of back
pain. (EFC No. 11, p. 301). She also received estrogen
replacement therapy due to ovary failure at the age of 26
(Id., p. 301), and she was diagnosed and treated for
clinical depression with underlying anxiety by Dr. Baker
(Id., pp. 304-306, 308). She continued to meet with
Dr. Baker in the late 1990's and 2000's and was
prescribed Xanax, Zoloft, and Paxil at differing times.
(Id., pp. 303-306, 308).
September 23, 1998, Plaintiff self-initiated an increase in
her Paxil and stopped taking Xanax. (Id., p. 305).
On February 19, 1999, she made another self-initiated
adjustment, increasing her Estrace dosage, which she stated
made her feel “much better.” She was also doing
“very well” on Paxil at that time. (Id.,
April 2000, Plaintiff stopped taking Estrace, Provera, and
Paxil on her own, but Dr. Baker restarted her on a hormone
regimen due to persistent hot flashes. (Id., p.
2009, Plaintiff went to Dr. Kareus for an evaluation of neck
pain, which she claimed had been present for three years.
(Id., pp. 409-411). No. bone or joint abnormalities
were detected, although she did exhibit a decreased range of
motion in the neck. This led Dr. Kareus to diagnose
degenerative cervical spine disease, pending x-rays.
(Id., p. 411). At that time, Plaintiff exhibited a
normal attention span with normal concentration, affect, and
behavior. Physical therapy or chiropractic therapy was
recommended, and Plaintiff was treated at Back in Action
Chiropractic on numerous occasions in 2010 with mixed
results. (Id., pp. 409-449).
November 12, 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Donald Chambers for an
initial evaluation. (Id., p. 451). She had a
calcification in her neck and either mitral or aortic valve
insufficiency. She reported that her mind raced all the time,
she experienced hot flashes, she was consistently late to
work, and off work too often. She was considering quitting.
Dr. Chambers prescribed Trileptal, advised her not to stop
working, and stated he felt he could help her problems.
2014 and 2017 Plaintiff went to Ozark Wellness Clinic where
she was treated for a variety of impairments, including:
anxiety; depression; stress; dizziness; pain in her back,
shoulders, neck, temples, jawbone, head, teeth; and, numbness
in her body and hands. (Id., pp. 331-354, 383-400,
454-468). At one of her most recent visits, on July 31, 2017,
Plaintiff complained of chronic head, neck, and shoulder
pain; muscle weakness; tenderness in the balls of her feet;
and, dizziness. She admitted that foot massages and saltwater
baths helped her feet, and Valium was effective in treating
her vertigo and Eagle syndrome symptoms. Because she did not
have insurance, her pectus excavatum could not be treated. Nurse
Yvonia Finley noted it would eventually cause a cardiac issue
and pressed the need for treatment. (Id., p. 456).
22, 2015, Plaintiff went to Cooper Clinic for lab work where
she complained of pain in her right flank, neck, and eyes
with a swollen tongue. (Id., pp. 321-329). The
doctor noted that her tongue appeared normal. She was