United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
March 7, 2016, Debra Del Camp applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning on February 21,
2004. (Tr. at 14) Her claims were denied both
initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
denied Ms. Del Camp's application. (Tr. at 25) 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. Del Camp filed this case seeking
judicial review of the decision denying her benefits.
reasons explained below, the Court reverses the
Commissioner's decision and remands for further review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Del Camp had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date of
December 1, 2016. (Tr. at 16) At step two of the five-step
analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Del Camp had the following
severe impairments: fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety.
finding that Ms. Del Camp's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 17), the ALJ determined
that Ms. Del Camp had the residual functional capacity (RFC)
to perform work at the medium level, with limitations. (Tr.
at 19) She could bend and stoop frequently. Id. She
was limited to work where interpersonal contact is incidental
to the work performed, and the complexity of any tasks is
learned and performed by rote, contains few variables, and
requires little judgment. Id. Any necessary
supervision would be simple, direct, and concrete.
found, based on Ms. Del Camp's RFC, that she was unable
to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 23) At step five,
the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (VE)
to find, based on Ms. Del Camp's age, education, work
experience and RFC, that she was capable of performing work
in the national economy as dietary aide, auto detailer, and
hospital housekeeper. (Tr. at 25) Thus, the ALJ determined
that Ms. Del Camp was not disabled. Id.
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] 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).
Del Camp's Arguments on Appeal
Camp maintains that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits
is not supported by substantial evidence. She argues that the
ALJ erred by not finding her vision problems and asthma to be
severe impairments. In addition, she maintains that the ALJ
failed to properly develop the record, erred by failing to
fully incorporate all limitations in assigning the RFC, and
posed a hypothetical to the VE that did not properly include
all of her impairments. As explained below, the ALJ did not
properly consider the significant limitations that Ms. Del
Camp's vision problems imposed in assigning the RFC.
severe impairment is one that significantly limits a
person'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). Basic work activities include walking,
standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching,
carrying, and handling, as well as mental and nonexertional
functions, including: the ability to see, hear, and speak;
the ability to understand, carry out, and remember simple
instructions; the ability to use judgment; and the ability to
respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, usual work
situations, and changes in work routine. Lewis v.
Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 645 (8th Cir. 2003).
found that Ms. Del Camp's vision problems were minimal
and managed by corrective lenses. (Tr. at 17). He cited to
Exhibits 4E, 7F, 11F, as well as to Ms. Del Camp's
testimony. Id. Exhibit 4E did not mention Ms. Del
Camp's vision. (Tr. at 318-325) Exhibit 7F was a record
from Charles Retina Institute that cited Ms. Del Camp's
problems with: proliferative vitreoretinopathy of the right
eye, retinal detachment of the right eye, and acute iritis of
the right eye. (Tr. at 773). The eye doctor scheduled surgery
to repair the detached retina, which Ms. Del Camp underwent
in 2017. (Tr. at 16-17, 774). Exhibit 11F is a record from
Southern Eye Associates, which showed that Ms. Del Camp was
having difficulty reading the newspaper, driving at night,
and watching TV. At that time, she indicated that, in the
preceding three months, her vision had gotten “real
bad.” (Tr. at 882). The next note described a gas
bubble in Ms. Del Camp's eye after surgery and severe
pain. (Tr. at 881) She was using a cold compress and Tylenol.
Id. Ms. Del Camp testified that her right eye was
very blurry and that her eye hurt when ...