United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
JESSE T. HOWELL PLAINTIFF
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
Recommended Disposition (Recommendation) has been sent to
Judge Kristine G. Baker. Either party may file written
objections to this Recommendation. If objections are filed,
they should be specific and should include the factual or
legal basis for the objection.
considered, objections must be received in the office of the
Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no
objections are filed, Judge Baker can adopt this
Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By
not objecting, parties may waive the right to appeal
questions of fact.
6, 2016, Jesse T. Howell applied for disability benefits,
alleging disability beginning January 27, 2016. (Tr. at 15)
His claims were denied both initially and upon
reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Mr. Howell's
application. (Tr. at 25) He 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 final decision of the Commissioner. Mr. Howell
filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision
denying his benefits.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Howell had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of January 27, 2016.
(Tr. at 18) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ
found that Mr. Howell had the following severe impairments:
status post compression fracture of the thoracic spine,
traumatic brain injury, anxiety disorder, and affective
finding that Mr. Howell's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 18), the ALJ determined
that Mr. Howell had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform work at the light exertional level, with some
additional limitations. (Tr. at 20) He could only
occasionally stoop and crouch. Id. He could have
contact with others incidental to the work performed, and he
could perform work learned and performed by rote, with few
variables, and requiring little judgment. Id. He
would require simple, direct, and concrete supervision.
Id. He was limited to work not requiring frequent
verbal communications. Id.
found that, based on Mr. Howell's RFC, he was unable to
perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 23) At step five, the
ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (VE) to
find, based on Mr. Howell's age, education, work
experience and RFC, that he was capable of performing work in
the national economy as a can filling and closing machine
tender, a power screwdriver operator, or an injection molding
machine tender. (Tr. at 25) The ALJ determined, therefore,
that Mr. Howell 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).
Howell's Arguments on Appeal
Howell maintains that substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. He argues that the
ALJ: did not fully develop the record; did not properly
complete the Psychiatric Review Technique; did not give
proper weight to his subjective complaints; and improperly
discounted two residual functional capacity assessments from
his treating doctor.
Howell had complex compression fractures of the thoracic
spine. (Tr. at 642, 658) An MRI of the thoracic spine showed
moderate compression deformities of T3 and T4 vertebral
bodies with approximately 50% loss of vertebral body height.
(Tr. at 707) It also showed superior end plate compression
along T2 and T5 vertebral bodies. Id ...