United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS JUDGE
before the Court is the Report and Recommendation
("R&R") (Doc. 13) of the Honorable Erin L.
Wiedemann, Chief United States Magistrate Judge for the
Western District of Arkansas, filed in this case on April 25,
2019. Plaintiff Mary Bales requests judicial review of the
decision to deny her claims for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the
provisions of Title II of the Social Security Act.
Magistrate Judge recommends affirming the Administrative Law
Judge's ("ALJ") determination that Plaintiff is
not entitled to DIB benefits. In Plaintiffs objections (Doc.
14), she argues that the ALJ erred in not giving enough
weight to objective tests performed by Dr. H. Gene Chambers,
a neuropsychologist, that indicated moderate-severe
impairment in processing speed, extreme impairment in
attention and concentration, severe impairment in short-term
memory, and severe impairment in depression and anxiety. She
also argues the R&R does not properly address her
subjective complaints and her complaints of tremors.
light of Plaintiffs objections, the Court has undertaken a
de novo review of the record, and after doing so,
finds that the objections do not justify deviating from the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation.
reviewing a decision of an ALJ, the Court must determine if
the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the
record. Flynn v. Chater, 107 F.3d 617, 620 (8th Cir.
1997); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial
evidence is "less than a preponderance."
Rodysill v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 947, 949 (8th Cir.
2014) (quoting Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 968
(8th Cir. 2010)). Additionally, substantial evidence is
"relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept
as adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion." Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000). The Court considers evidence that
supports the ALJ's decision alongside evidence that
detracts. Rodysill, 745 F.3d at 949.
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion, the
Court cannot reverse simply because substantial evidence also
supports a different outcome. Jones, 619 F.3d at
968; Haley v. Massanarl, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir.
2001). Essentially, if "after reviewing the record, the
Court finds that it is possible to draw two inconsistent
positions from the evidence and one of those positions
represents the ALJ's findings, the Court must affirm the
ALJ's decision." Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d
785, 790-91 (8th Cir. 2005).
first objection stems from the ALJ's decision to give
little weight to the objective tests done by Dr. Chambers,
one of Plaintiff's treating psychologists, that indicated
Plaintiff suffered from moderate-severe impairment in
processing speed, extreme impairment in attention and
concentration, severe impairment in short-term memory, and
severe depression and anxiety. The ALJ offered the following
justification for rejecting Dr. Chambers' opinion:
The two psychological assessments provided by Dr. Chambers
are vastly different from all the other treating records
showing normal findings. For this reason, I accord the
opinions little weight (Exh 2F, 14F).
(Doc. 9 at 30). Plaintiff argued that this analysis was not
sufficiently detailed to allow for appellate review and that
the R&R did not address the ALJ's failure to comply
with 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527, which states the factors that
are to be examined when weighing conflicting medical opinions
involved in disability claims.
R&R notes that the ALJ discussed the medical opinions of
treating, examining, and non-examining professionals when
determining the Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"), including the opinions of Drs. DeYoung,
Foster, Moon, Chambers, Kelly, Fields, Redd, and Clemens.
(Doc. 13 at 19). It is a function of the ALJ to resolve
conflicts among the opinions of various treating and
examining physicians. Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d
1057, 1065 (8th Cir. 2012). The ALJ may reject the
conclusions of any medical expert if they are inconsistent
with the record as a whole. Prosch v. Apfel, 201
F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). After reviewing the record,
the Court agrees with the R&R that the ALJ adequately
justified giving little weight to Dr. Chambers' opinions.
Those opinions contradicted the opinions of all the other
examining professionals, and Plaintiffs own self-report of
the activities she was able to perform on a daily basis
showed that she was not as limited as Dr. Chambers'
reports indicated. Accordingly, the first objection is
second objection is that the R&R did not properly address
Plaintiffs subjective mental complaints. The Court disagrees.
The R&R recounted many of Plaintiffs subjective
complaints and noted the ALJ properly considered and
evaluated these complaints in view of the factors listed in
Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir.
1984). Plaintiff claims she cares for her pets, was able to
vacation in South Texas, makes breakfast occasionally, pays
bills, uses a checkbook, and performs several other tasks.
Even if Plaintiff qualified some of these activities by
saying she could only perform them "at times" or
"occasionally," the ALJ correctly concluded that
Plaintiff is still able to engage in gainful activities
despite suffering some minor degree of limitation.
one of the Polaski factors to especially note is
"dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of [her]
medication." See Id. Even though Plaintiffs
mental impairments that affected these subjective experiences
were only treated conservatively with medication, the
medication improved her symptoms. Impairments that can be
controlled with treatment or medication are not disabling.
See Estes v. Barnhart,275 F.3d 722, 725 (8th Cir.
2002). Furthermore, doctors recommended psychotherapy as part
of Plaintiffs treatment plan for her mental health
complaints, but she refused to attend therapy at all. It is
well-established that "[f]ailure to follow a prescribed
course of remedial treatment ...