United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Paula Marie Zachary, brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
denying her claim for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental
security income (“SSI”) benefits under Titles II
and XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter “the
Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). In this judicial review, the Court must
determine whether there is substantial evidence in the
administrative record to support the Commissioner's
decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on September 1, 2016,
due to back problems, back pain, fibromyalgia, a nervous
breakdown, and neuropathy. (ECF No. 11, pp. 19, 215).
Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 1, 2016.
(Id.). Her claims were denied initially on February
7, 2017, and upon reconsideration on June 9, 2017.
(Id., pp. 19, 111-13, 128-30). An administrative
hearing was held on February 13, 2018, in Fort Smith,
Arkansas, before the Hon. Bill Jones, Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). (Id., pp. 39-57).
Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Michael
Hamby, at the hearing. (Id.). Larry Seifert, a
vocational expert (“VE”), also testified at the
written decision dated June 28, 2018, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's disorder of her back, obesity, borderline
personality disorder, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder,
and early onset cyclothymia to be severe, but that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level
of severity of any impairment in the Listing of Impairments.
(Id., p. 22-26). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she can occasionally climb,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She is limited to
jobs with simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving
only simple, work-related decisions, with few, if any,
workplace changes. She can have no more than incidental
contact with coworkers, supervisors and the general public
and will need a cane to ambulate. (Id., pp. 26-32).
the assistance of a vocational expert (“VE”), the
ALJ found Plaintiff would be unable to perform her past
relevant work as actually or as generally performed, but she
would be able to perform the representative occupations of:
Compact Assembler (DOT No. 739.687-066), with 4, 685 jobs in
the national economy; Ampoule Sealer (DOT No. 559.687-014),
with 17, 391 jobs in the national economy; or, Dowel Checker
(DOT No. 669.687-014), with 6, 215 jobs in the national
economy. (Id., p. 32-33). The ALJ found Plaintiff
had not been disabled under the definition of the Act from
May 1, 2016 through the date of his decision. (Id.,
November 9, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id., pp. 6-8). Plaintiff then
filed this action on January 4, 2019. (ECF No. 1). This
matter is before the undersigned for report and
recommendation. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. (ECF
Nos. 15, 16). The case is ready for decision.
undersigned has conducted a thorough review of the entire
record in this case. The complete sets of facts and arguments
are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated
here only to the extent necessary.
administrative hearing held on February 13, 2018, Plaintiff
testified that she made it to the 10th grade in school but
had learning difficulties so she was in special classes for
both math and English. (ECF No. 11, pp. 43, 48). Although not
discussed at the hearing, Plaintiff's disability report
shows she later earned a GED. (Id., p. 216).
Plaintiff testified she continued to have difficulties
reading and writing. (Id., p. 43).
testified that she had both anger outbursts and frequent
crying episodes, and this had caused her to lose her last
job. (Id., p. 44). At the time of the hearing, she
said these incidents happened about once a week anytime she
was in public - as she had issues dealing with people.
(Id., pp. 44-45). When she had crying episodes, she
would cry on and off all day, and when she had anger issues,
she might punch a wall or self-harm. (Id.).
Plaintiff testified that at her last job she was crying on
and off all day, and this caused her supervisors to become
concerned. (Id., p. 45). She also had two episodes
at work where she “zoned out, ” had difficulties
filling out paperwork, and near the end, she missed up to 10
days of work per month due to falling. (Id., pp. 48,
testified she had numbness and swelling in her feet and legs
every day. (Id., pp. 59-50). She elevated her feet
while she slept, which alleviated the swelling somewhat, and
if she noticed swelling during the day, she would elevate
them for two hours at a time, usually twice a day.
(Id.). The numbness was constant. (Id.).
Standing or walking more than 15 to 20 minutes worsened her
swelling and numbness. (Id.).
testified that she had back pain daily that was a 7 or 8 on a
10-point pain scale, but it would drop to a 4 or 5 with
medication. (Id., p. 47). She had been discussing
having a second back surgery, but her surgeon, Dr. Johnson,
had recently had a heart attack and she did not have a
surgery scheduled. (Id., pp. 46-47). Plaintiff also
testified that her doctors had expressed an unwillingness to
go forward with a needed back surgery until she lost some
weight, but that she had put on about 30 pounds in the last
few months. (Id., pp. 47-48).
testified that her medications did alleviate her back pain,
but made her drowsy, occasionally dizzy, and sometimes unable
to function. (Id., p. 49). Her
Clonazepam and Hydrocodone caused a lot of memory
problems and difficulties sleeping. (Id., p. 46).
testified that she could not lift more than 10 pounds, or
climb stairs, ladders, and scaffolds, but she could go up
ramps with her walker. (Id., pp. 52-53). Plaintiff
testified that her walker and cane had been prescribed
because she had suffered some falls, and she used her walker
and cane all the time, including at home. (Id.). Her
knees hurt daily and made it difficult for her to get up from
a sitting position, but she would be okay once she started to
walk. (Id., p. 51).
testified there was very little she could do around the
house. (Id., p. 57). She lived with her husband, her
brother, and their friend. (Id., pp. 57-58). The
friend who lived with them assisted her husband, who was also