United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
SAIDAH D. YOUNG PLAINTIFF
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATIONDEFENDANT
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
case has a complex procedural history, including a remand by
this Court in 2007 and several other remands by the Appeals
Council. In short, however, the Court finds that the
ALJ's most recent decision was supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole. Ms. Young was not always
compliant with her doctors' recommendations (such as
weight loss and exercise), she improved over the relevant
time-period, and her most serious health problems were acute
in nature, resolving with treatment. While the ALJ may have
made some errors in his decision process, the Court finds
that those errors were harmless.
Young filed her initial application on April 19, 2002,
alleging a disability onset date of October 19, 2001. (Tr. at
586). She alleged disability based on irregular heart rate,
fatigue, shortness of breath, and hypertension. Id.
Ms. Young's applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration, and a hearing was held at her request on
September 21, 2005, in front of Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Stimson. (Tr. at 17, 586).
December 20, 2005, ALJ Stimson issued a decision finding that
Ms. Young was not disabled. (Tr. at 17-22, 586). ALJ Stimson
found that Ms. Young had severe impairments of ischemic heart
disease and essential hypertension. (Tr. at 19). He found
that she had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally
and less than 10 pounds frequently and to stand/walk six
hours and sit six hours in an eight-hour day, which qualified
as “light” exertional level work, because of the
standing and walking requirement. (Tr. at 20). This meant that
Ms. Young could return to her past relevant work as a
typist/clerk/stenographer, a sedentary job. Id.
Thus, ALJ Stimson found that Ms. Young was not disabled. (Tr.
at 21-22). She appealed her case to the Appeals Council, and
on May 25, 2006, the Appeals Council denied her request for
review of the hearing decision. (Tr. at 586-587).
Young filed a complaint in this Court disputing ALJ
Stimson's decision, and United States District Judge Leon
Holmes issued an Opinion and Order remanding the case for
further review on September 17, 2007. (Tr. at 586-597); Case
No. 3:06CV129 JLH (Sept. 17, 2007). In his Order, Judge
Holmes instructed ALJ Stimson to: 1) further develop the
record; 2) consider Ms. Young's obesity; 3) give good
reasons for the weight ALJ Stimson accorded to the
consultative medical opinions; 4) determine the physical
demands of Ms. Young's past relevant work; and 5)
consider whether she was entitled to benefits for a closed
period of time, specifically in 2002 and 2003. (Tr. at
593-597). The Appeals Council officially remanded the case to
ALJ Stimson on January 4, 2008. (Tr. at 599).
next administrative hearing took place on December 30, 2008
(Tr. at 541). ALJ Stimson issued a decision denying Ms. Young
benefits again on March 26, 2009. (Tr. at 541-548). In his
decision, he found that Ms. Young had severe impairments of
ischemic heart disease, essential hypertension, and right hip
pain. (Tr. at 543). He assigned the same RFC as he assigned
in the first decision, for light work. (Tr. at 544). Based on
the RFC, he determined that Ms. Young could return to her
past work as an editorial assistant or document specialist,
both jobs in the sedentary exertional category. (Tr. at 547).
Thus, ALJ Stimson concluded that Ms. Young was not disabled.
(Tr. at 548).
Appeals Council remanded the case again to ALJ Stimson on
June 10, 2011. (Tr. at 562). The Appeals Council directed ALJ
Stimson to: 1) give further consideration to all of the
medical opinions, obtaining more medical evidence if
necessary; 2) obtain an additional orthopedic medical
assessment from a specialist; 3) further evaluate Ms.
Young's RFC, and explain the weight given to each medical
opinion that addresses her RFC; and 4) if necessary, obtain
supplemental evidence from a vocational expert
(“VE”) about the availability of jobs Ms. Young
could perform. (Tr. at 563-564).
hearing was held in front of ALJ Stimson on January 24, 2012.
(Tr. at 568). ALJ Stimson issued his decision denying
benefits on June 14, 2012 (Tr. at 568-578). In his decision,
he found that Ms. Young had the following severe impairments:
ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and degenerative
disease of the right hip. (Tr. at 571). He assigned Ms. Young
an RFC for sedentary work. Id. ALJ Stimson found
that Ms. Young could return to her past work as a
transcriptionist and a document specialist, both sedentary
jobs. (Tr. at 577).
Appeals Council remanded the case for a third time, on June
30, 2014. (Tr. at 579-585). The Appeals Council directed the
case to be heard by a different ALJ. Id. The remand
order directed the new ALJ (ALJ Ingram) to: 1) give further
consideration to Ms. Young's fatigue symptoms, obesity,
and anemia; 2) obtain expert medical evidence if necessary;
3) give further consideration to all of the medical opinions
in the record with respect to their RFC findings; 4) further
evaluate whether Ms. Young could return to her past relevant
work; and 5) if warranted, obtain VE testimony at Step Five.
(Tr. at 584-585).
Ingram conducted the most recent hearing on June 16, 2015.
(Tr. at 521-530). He issued a decision on July 23, 2015,
finding that Ms. Young was not disabled prior to August 1,
2011, but was disabled and entitled to benefits from that
date forward. Id. While Ms. Young's attorney
claimed that he filed timely objections to that decision, the
Appeals Council found those objections to be untimely (Tr. at
496); therefore, ALJ Ingram's decision now stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner, and Ms. Young has
requested judicial review. For the reasons stated below, the
Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Young had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of October 19,
2001. (Tr. at 523). At Step Two, ALJ Ingram
found that prior to August 1, 2011, Ms. Young had severe
impairments of obesity and right hip slipped subcapital
epiphysis. (Tr. at 523). Beginning on August 1, 2011, Ms.
Young had advanced osteoarthritis of the right hip as a
severe impairment. Id. At Step Three, ALJ Ingram
found that Ms. Young's impairments did not meet or equal
a listed impairment. (Tr. at 524).
found that prior to August 1, 2011, the date Ms. Young became
disabled, she had the RFC to perform light work, except that
she could only occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl, balance, or
climb. Id. The ALJ identified Ms. Young's past
relevant work as word processor (sedentary exertional level),
medical transcriptionist (sedentary exertional level), and
emergency room clerk (light exertional level). (Tr. at 528).
He determined, based on the record and the demands of her
past relevant work, that prior to August 1, 2011, Ms. Young
was capable of performing her past relevant work.
found Ms. Young to be disabled beginning on August 1, 2011,
due to hip problems set forth in the medical record. (Tr. at
528-529). She could not perform past relevant work or any
other work in the national economy from August 1, 2011
summarize, ALJ Ingram found that Ms. Young was not disabled
prior to August 1, 2011, but was entitled to benefits
beginning on that date.
Standard of Review
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 whether it is based on
legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
While “substantial evidence” is that which a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a
whole” requires a court to engage in a more
“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record
for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the
Commissioner's decision; we also take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from that
decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however,
“merely because ...