United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
Recommendation has been sent to Judge James M. Moody, Jr.
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
considered, objections must be received in the office of the
Court Clerk within 14 days. If no objections are filed, Judge
Moody can adopt this Recommendation without independently
reviewing the record. And, if they do not file objections,
parties may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.
January 25, 2016, Tammie Coleen Wilson applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning April 15,
2012. (Tr. at 12, 101) Her claims were denied
both initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
denied Ms. Wilson'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. Ms. Wilson filed this case seeking judicial
review of the decision denying her benefits.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Wilson had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the amended alleged onset date of August 1,
2014. (Tr. at 14) At step two of the five-step analysis, the
ALJ found that Ms. Wilson had the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis/degenerative disc disease and
scoliosis of the lumbar spine, obesity, hypothyroidism,
hypertension, and a history of multiple bilateral knee
surgeries, including bilateral total knee arthroplasty. (Tr.
finding that Ms. Wilson's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 17), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Wilson had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform the full range of work at the sedentary level, with
some additional limitations. Id. She could not
climb, kneel, crouch, or crawl. Id. She could only
occasionally balance and stoop. Id. She must avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards. Id.
found that, based on the assigned RFC and testimony from the
Vocational Expert (VE), Ms. Wilson could perform her past
relevant work as a transcriber and an accounting clerk. (Tr.
at 25). Based on that step-four determination, the ALJ held
that Ms. Wilson was not disabled. Id.
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).
Wilson's Arguments on Appeal
Wilson maintains that the evidence supporting the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits is less than substantial. She
argues four points in this appeal: (1) the ALJ failed to
fully develop the record; (2) the ALJ did not give proper
weight to the opinion of Dr. Roxanne Marshall, M.D.; (3) the
credibility analysis was flawed; and (4) the ALJ erred at
step four in his determination that Ms. Wilson could return
to her past relevant work. After reviewing the whole record,
however, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err in
the evidence in the record pertains to hospital visits prior
to the relevant time period, which began August 1, 2014.
Generally, that evidence showed mild objective findings,
conservative treatment, and positive response to medication.
(Tr. at 464, 469, 501, 524, 525, 530, 533, 650-658, 801-844,
909, 910, 1074, 1081, 1153) Also, throughout the record, Ms.
Wilson (who was 5'5” and weighed over 200 pounds)
was counseled to lose weight, improve her diet, and exercise.
(Tr. at 524-525, 533-534, 1187) She did not follow these
suggestions. A failure to follow a recommended course of
treatment weighs against a claimant. Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 802 (8th Cir. 2005).
Marshall, Ms. Wilson's treating physician, told her that
her morbid obesity was putting her at high risk for stroke
and heart problems. (Tr. at 524) Indeed, medical experts
concur that problems such as chest pain, hypertension, low
back pain, and osteoarthritis of the knees are complicated by
obesity, and that was the case here. The ALJ discussed the
effect Ms. Wilson's obesity had on her health, as
required by the regulations; he properly found that obesity
did not render her unable to work when considered in
combination with her other impairments. ...