United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
VOLPE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
recommended disposition has been submitted to United States
District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. The parties may file
specific objections to these findings and recommendations and
must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection.
The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than
fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and
recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party.
The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may
reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole
or in part.
Elizabeth Band, has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny
her claim for disability insurance benefits. Both parties
have submitted appeal briefs and the case is now ready for a
court's function on review is to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir.
1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d
254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996). In assessing the substantiality of
the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts
from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that
supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the
Commissioner's decision merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision.
Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir.
2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir.
history of the administrative proceedings and the statement
of facts relevant to this decision are contained in the
respective briefs and are not in serious dispute. Therefore,
they will not be repeated in this opinion except as
necessary. After careful consideration of the record as a
whole, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported
by substantial evidence.
was forty-one at the time of the administrative hearing. (Tr.
36.) She is a college graduate, (Tr. Id.) and has
past relevant work as an elementary school teacher. (Tr. 25.)
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found Ms. Band has
“severe” degenerative disc disease, (Tr. 17), but
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments
meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18.)
determined Ms. Band had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform a slightly reduced range of sedentary work.
(Id.) Given this RFC, the ALJ determined Ms. Band is
no longer able to perform her past relevant work. (Tr. 25.)
Therefore, the ALJ employed the services of a vocational
expert to determine whether jobs existed that Ms. Band could
perform despite her impairments. (Tr. 43-46.) Based in part
on the vocational expert testimony, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs of document
preparer and surveillance system monitor. (Tr. 26.)
Accordingly, the ALJ determined Ms. Band was not disabled.
support of her Complaint, Ms. Band argues that the ALJ erred
in three ways by: 1) finding no “severe” mental
impairment; 2) determining she did not meet listing 1.04A;
and 3) failing to give adequate weight to the opinion of her
treating physician, Rebecca Barrett-Tuck, M.D. (Doc. No. 10
says, “. . . it is evident that the ALJ's cursory
dismissal of Ms. Band's mental impairments as
‘non-severe' is contrary to the weight of the
evidence.” (Id. at 9.) I disagree with
Plaintiff's assertion that the ALJ's analysis was
“cursory.” The ALJ gave fair attention to this
issue and stated:
Physical exams on May 19, 2017 and December 29, 2017 revealed
that the claimant had a normal mood and affect. Her behavior,
judgment, and thought content were normal. However, she was
diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD), for which she
was prescribed Diazepam (Valium) 10 mg. The claimant's
physical exam revealed the same results on March 2, 2018, but
it does not appear that she was prescribed any medication for
the anxiety. Furthermore, the undersigned concludes that any
symptoms the claimant may experience related to this
impairment are situational and not medically determined.
Therefore, based on the medical evidence of record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant's GAD does not
significantly limit her ability to engage in work related
activities. Thus, it is a non-severe impairment under the
provisions of 20 CFR 404.1521.
(Tr. 18 (citations omitted).)
“severe” impairment is one that significantly
limits a claimant's physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. Gwathney v. Chater, 104 F.3d
1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997); Browning v. Sullivan,
958 F.2d 817, 821 (8th Cir. 1992); 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(c) (2007). It has “more than a minimal effect
on the claimant's ability to work.” Hudson v.
Bowen, 870 F.2d at 1396; accord, Kirby v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007); Page v.
Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007).
(a) Non-severe impairment(s). An impairment or
combination of impairments is not severe if it does not
significantly limit your physical or mental ...