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Parrish v. Berryhill

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

July 2, 2019

NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT


         I. Background:

         On January 11, 2016, Janet Parrish applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning on December 24, 2011. (Tr. at 16) Ms. Parrish's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ@) denied Ms. Parrish's application. (Tr. at 31) Ms. Parrish requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision. Ms. Parrish filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision denying her benefits.[1]

         II. The Commissioner=s Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Parrish had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date, December 24, 2011.[2] (Tr. at 43) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Parrish had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease (DDD), fibromyalgia, history of cannabis abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, history of asthma, and panic disorder without agoraphobia. Id.

         After finding that Ms. Parrish's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 19-20), the ALJ determined that Ms. Parrish had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level, with some additional limitations. (Tr. at 21) She could perform simple, routine, and repetitive work where the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. Id. She could have frequent contact with co-workers and supervisors, but no more than occasional contact with the public. Id.

         The ALJ found that Ms. Parrish was able to perform her past relevant work as a cashier. (Tr. at 29-30) The ALJ made an alternative finding at step five. He relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (VE) to find, based on age, education, work experience and RFC, that Ms. Parrish could perform work in the national economy as housekeeper and document machine feeder. (Tr. at 31) The ALJ determined, therefore, that Ms. Parrish 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 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).

         B. Ms. Parrish's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Parrish maintains that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. She argues that the ALJ did not fully consider all of her impairments, that the RFC did not incorporate all of her limitations, and that the ALJ should have further developed the record.

         While Ms. Parrish complained of neck and back pain, a cervical MRI showed only minor degenerative changes with no right-side stenosis or disc herniation. (Tr. at 457) Objective tests showing mild-to-moderate conditions do not support a finding of disability. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th Cir. 2004). Ms. Parrish saw both a chiropractor and pain management specialist; and she took prescription medication for pain. (Tr. at 440-444, 483-491) In October of 2015, the pain management specialist noted that Ms. Parrish's medications were effective with no side effects. (Tr. at 491) He also stated that she could perform daily activities with pain medication. Id. At that time, Ms. Parrish had negative straight-leg raise and normal strength, tone, and coordination. (Tr. at 497)

         Ms. Parrish's medical records further reveal that her doctor prescribed weight loss (Tr. at 498) and that she experienced 80% pain relief from medial branch blocks. (Tr. at 487) Impairments that are controllable or amenable to treatment do not support a finding of total disability. Mittlestedt v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2000).

         Indeed, Ms. Parrish agreed that she could perform tasks such as cooking meals, cleaning, and doing laundry. She attended bible study, shopped in stores, made jewelry, and sewed. (Tr. at 344-347) Daily activities such as these undermine Ms. Parrish's claims of disability. Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484, 487 (8th Cir. 1995) She also continued to work, at least part-time, until 2016. (Tr. at 70) Working generally demonstrates an ability to perform a ...

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