United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Paulette Robinson (“Robinson”) began this case by
filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). In the
complaint, Robinson challenged the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), a decision based upon the
findings of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
maintains that the ALJ's findings are not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Robinson so
maintains for the following reasons:
... (1) the ALJ erred by failing to fully and fairly develop
the record; (2) the ALJ erred in evaluating the consistency
of ... Robinson's allegations of severely limiting foot
pain and impairments; (3) the ALJ erred in considering and
weighing the medical evidence; (4) the ALJ erred in the
Residual Functional Capacity assessment; and, as a result,
(5) the ALJ failed to elicit vocational evidence showing ...
Robinson could perform jobs available in the national
See Docket Entry 10 at CM/ECF 2.
summarized the testimonial, medical, and documentary evidence
in the record, and the Commissioner did not challenge the
summary or otherwise place it in dispute. The summary will
not be reproduced, except to note several matters germane to
the issues raised in the parties' briefs.
was born on August 23, 1964, and was fifty years old at the
time she became unable to work on July 24, 2015. She filed
her applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income payments on September 20, 2016,
and alleged that she was unable to work as a result of,
inter alia, osteoarthritis in her spine and knees
and an impairment in her right foot.
record reflects that during the period between February 13,
2014, and August 21, 2017, Robinson sought care at the Wynne
Medical Clinic and was seen there primarily by Dr. Mark
Bradshaw, M.D. (“Bradshaw”) and Dr. James Cathey,
M.D. (“Cathey”). See Transcript at
734-851, 870-888. Robinson was seen for a number of
complaints, the most compelling of which appear to have been
her low back pain and the pain in her lower extremities. She
represents, and the Court accepts, that “[p]hysical
examinations consistently showed lower leg and foot swelling,
foot pain (primarily along the right distal first
metatarsal), severe left knee pain, a limp, and low back pain
radiating into the left lower extremity.” See
Docket Entry 10 at CM/ECF 5 [citing Transcript at 746, 748,
756, 758, 787]. An MRI of her lumbar spine performed on
December 22, 2015, produced unremarkable results.
See Transcript at 662-663. She was prescribed
medication for her pain, medication that included tramadol
and hydrocodone. On at least one occasion, Bradshaw gave
Robinson an injection in her left knee joint to help relieve
her pain. See Transcript at 751.
the period Robinson was being seen at the Wynne Medical
Clinic, she also sought emergency room care for her
complaints of pain in her back and lower extremities.
See Transcript at 406-410 (05/27/2015 presentation
for complaints of severe pain in right foot); 375-379, 402
(07/18/2015 presentation for complaints of mild to moderate
pain in her right big toe); 355-365, 556 (08/15/2015
presentation for complaints that included mild back pain);
588-591 (09/04/2016 presentation for complaints of moderate
lumbar pain); 864-868 (02/18/2017 presentation for complaints
of mild low back pain). She was typically prescribed medication
for her pain and instructed to follow up with her primary
also sought care for depression and anxiety during the period
between February 13, 2014, and August 21, 2017. For instance,
Robinson was seen by Bradshaw on May 8, 2015, and his
progress note reflects the following:
[Robinson] to be evaluated for depressive disorder not
elsewhere classified. Visit today is because of worsening
symptoms. The diagnosis of depression was made 10 plus years
ago. This episode of depression has been present for the past
year. Currently not on any antidepressants. Current affective
symptoms include insomnia, crying spells and
sadness. The symptoms as constant and overwhelming.
Presently, ... ROBINSON admits to fleeting thoughts of
suicide (she denies a suicide plan and is able to contract
with me). Psychiatric history is significant for prior
depressive episodes (one time previously) and prior suicide
attempt (2004, OD attempt). She is moving to a new apartment
and is told she must have a doctors note to keep her dog in
new apartment. She is more depressed due to fear of losing
See Transcript at 754 [emphasis in original].
Bradshaw prescribed Zoloft and wrote Robinson a note so that
she could reside with her dog.
November 21, 2015, Robinson sought emergency room care for
anxiety. See Transcript at 665-669. She reported
that she was under a great deal of stress as her mother had
recently been diagnosed with cancer. “Anxiety as acute
reaction to exceptional stress” was diagnosed.
See Transcript at 668. It appears that she was
prescribed hydroxyzine pamoate and encouraged to seek
saw Bradshaw on December 5, 2015, for complaints of anxiety.
See Transcript at 785-786. He noted her recent
emergency room presentation and observed that her anxiety had
grown worse with her mother's passing. He diagnosed acute
grief reaction and appears to have continued her on
saw Cathey approximately fourteen months later for complaints
of anxiety. See Transcript at 874-877 (02/28/2017).
Her symptoms included chest pain, hyperventilation,
palpitations, and shortness of breath and were triggered by
stress. He diagnosed a generalized anxiety disorder and
5, 2016, Robinson saw Dr. Charles R. Arkin, M.D.,
(“Arkin”), a rheumatologist, at Cathey's
behest. See Transcript at 560-566, 819. An x-ray
revealed mild osteoarthritis changes in Robinson's lower
back, and a physical examination revealed “mild
tenderness of the SI joint, discomfort with lumbar spine
extension, knee joint crepitus with mobility, right ankle
swelling with range of motion discomfort, pes planus
bilaterally, and metatarsophalangeal tender to
palpation.” See Docket Entry 10 at CM/ECF 6
[citing Transcript at 563]. Arkin also noted pain in
Robinson's weight-bearing joints. He assessed pain in
multiple joints and ordered additional testing.
in what appears to have been sometime in 2015 and continuing
through at least November of 2016, Robinson was seen for her
foot impairment by Dr. Michael Haughey, D.P.M.,
(“Haughey”). Robinson summarized Haughey's
treatment as follows:
... Robinson's right foot condition required several
surgeries. (Tr. 709-711, 721-724) First, she had a Chevron
osteotomy first right metatarsal. (Tr. 721-724) After
experiencing severe pain when ambulating from the hardware
placed during the chevron surgery, she underwent hardware
removal surgery. (Tr. 709-711)
Four months after the second surgery, on July 21, 2016, Dr.
Haughey gave Ms. Robinson a pain injection to treat toe
cramping and pain. (Tr. 715) Dr. Haughey gave Ms. Robinson
another pain injection on November 2, 2016. (Tr. 716) At that
time, Dr. Haughey assessed Ms. Robinson with achilles
tendinitis. (Tr. 716).
On November 16, 2016, Dr. Haughey noted the previous
injection did not help. Ms. Robinson was still having pain,
especially in the left foot and ankle, increased with
ambulation. (Tr. 718) After the previous failed surgeries,
Ms. Robinson wanted to pursue conservative treatment. So, Dr.
Haughey prescribed Ms. Robinson with a custom “Arizona
brace” for her left foot. (Tr. 718)
See Docket Entry 10 at CM/ECF 7.
December 28, 2016, a podiatrist completed a medical source
statement-physical (“Statement”) on behalf of
Robinson. See Transcript at 852-854. The podiatrist
identified Robinson's impairments as severe
osteoarthritic and inflammatory changes of her left foot and
ankle. The podiatrist opined that during a typical eight hour
workday, Robinson could lift and carry less than ten pounds,
could stand and walk for less than two hours, and could sit
for about four hours. The podiatrist also opined that
Robinson is unable to reach in any direction, has difficulty
with handling and gross manipulation, and should avoid
exposure to virtually all environmental stimulants. The
podiatrist based the opinions on surgical inspections and
assessment of Robinson's physical residual functional
capacity was made by state agency physician Dr. William
Harrison, MD, (“Harrison”) on December 9, 2016,
and state agency physician Dr. Clarence Ballard, M.D.,
(“Ballard”) on February 8, 2017. See
Transcript at 70-74, 100-101. Harrison and Ballard agreed
that during a typical eight hour workday, Robinson could
occasionally lift and carry twenty pounds; frequently lift
and carry ten pounds; and stand, walk, and sit for six hours.
assessment of Robinson's mental residual functional
capacity was made by two state agency professionals, Dr.
Abesie Kelly, Ph.D., (“Kelly”) and Dr. Kevin
Santulli, Ph.D. (“Santulli”). See
Transcript at 68-70, 97-99. Kelly and Santulli agreed that
Robinson's mental impairments do not impose more than
mild limitations in adaptive functioning and are not severe.
record contains a summary of Robinson's reportable
earnings for the years 1985 through 2016. See
Transcript at 222. The summary reflects that she worked
steadily, at least between 2005 and 2011.
completed a function report in connection with her
applications. See Transcript at 261-268. In the
report, she represented that she cannot stand, walk, or sit
for too long because of the pain in her back and knees. She
can attend to her personal care, although it typically takes
her longer to do so because of her pain. She can prepare
simple meals and perform household and yard work, although
those activities also take longer to perform because of her
pain. Robinson has hobbies that include watching television
and sewing. She spends time with others and participates in
church activities at least twice a week. She does not use an
assistive device to walk or stand.
also completed a pain report. See Transcript at 271,
273. In the report, she represented that she has pain in her
back, hips, legs, and feet caused by walking, bending,
squatting, sitting too long, and rising. She estimated that
she can stand, walk, and sit for about ninety minutes before
she begins to experience pain.
testified during the administrative hearing. See
Transcript at 39-55. She was fifty-three years old at the
time. She works one to two hours a day, six days a week at
Life Gym doing general cleaning. She previously worked as a
cook at a restaurant and for a trucking company as an
over-the-road truck driver. She is unable to work because of
pain in her back, knees, and ankles. Robinson takes
prescription medication for pain, medication that
“sometimes” helps relieve the pain. See
Transcript at 45. When she is at home, she watches television
and does some housework. She rehearses with a church choir on
Wednesday evenings and performs with the choir on Sunday
mornings. Robinson takes medication for her anxiety, and the
medication “helps some.” See Transcript
at 51. Her church activities also help relieve her anxiety.
She wears an “Arizona” brace on her left foot
during the day.
found at step two of the sequential evaluation process that
Robinson's severe impairments include “other and
unspecified arthropathies, disorders of the back, ..., and an
anxiety disorder not otherwise specified.” See
Transcript at 17. The ALJ assessed Robinson's residual
functional capacity and found that she can perform light work
with the following additional limitations:
... [Robinson] can perform semi-skilled (SVP3 or 4) work and
can perform work where interpersonal contact is routine but
superficial, the complexity of tasks is learned by
experience, involves several variables, uses judgment within
limits, and the supervision ...