United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
Recommended Disposition (Recommendation) has been sent to
Judge Brian S. Miller. 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 Miller can adopt this
Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By
not objecting, parties may also waive the right to appeal
questions of fact.
November 1, 2016, Debra Matthews applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning October 1, 2016. (Tr.
at 15) Her claims were denied both initially and upon
reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Dr. Matthews's
application. (Tr. at 26) She 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. Dr.
Matthews filed this case seeking judicial review of the
decision denying her benefits.
reasons explained below, the Commissioner's decision
should be reversed and remanded for further review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Dr. Matthews had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of October 1,
2016. (Tr. at 17) At step two of the five-step analysis, the
ALJ found that Dr. Matthews had the following severe
impairments: spine disorders, fracture of bones, and carpal
tunnel syndrome. (Tr. at 18)
finding that Dr. Matthews's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 19), the ALJ determined
that Dr. Matthews had the residual functional capacity (RFC)
to perform work at the light exertional level, with some
additional limitations. (Tr. at 21) She could only
occasionally stoop and crouch. Id. She could
frequently handle, finger, and feel bilaterally. Id.
She must avoid hazards, such as unprotected heights and
dangerous machinery. Id.
found, based on that RFC and the testimony from the
Vocational Expert (VE), that Dr. Matthews could perform her
past work as a telecommunicator supervisor.(Tr. at 25) Thus,
the ALJ determined that Dr. Matthews was not disabled.
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 Commissioner's] 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).
Matthews's Arguments on Appeal
Matthews maintains that the evidence supporting the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits is less than substantial. She
argues that the ALJ should have found her mental impairments
to be severe at step two; that the ALJ failed to give proper
weight to treating and examining source medical opinions;
that the ALJ should have further developed the record; and
that she could not perform her past relevant work. Dr.
Matthews's medical records include evidence of mental