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Lively v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division

January 15, 2020

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT


         I. Introduction:

         On June 21, 2016, Anthony Lively applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning on September 27, 2014. (Tr. at 20) His claims were denied both initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied the application. (Tr. at 26) Mr. Lively 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. Mr. Lively filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision denying him benefits.[2]

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Mr. Lively had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of September 27, 2014. (Tr. at 23) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Lively had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, disorder of the spine, degenerative joint disease, neurocognitive disorder, depression, and anxiety. Id.

         After finding that Mr. Lively's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 23), the ALJ determined that Mr. Lively had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform work at the sedentary level with additional limitations. (Tr. at 26) He should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and should never work at unprotected heights, around unprotected, dangerous moving mechanical parts, or in extreme heat. Id. He retained the ability to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks and had the ability to make simple work-related decisions. Id. Supervision would need to be simple, direct, and concrete with only incidental interpersonal contact. Id.

         The ALJ found that Mr. Lively was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 44) At step five, after taking into account Mr. Lively's age, education, work experience and RFC, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (VE) to find that Mr. Lively could perform work in the national economy as inspector and assembler. (Tr. at 45) Thus, the ALJ determined that Mr. Lively was not disabled. (Tr. at 26)

         III. Discussion:

         A. 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, merely 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).

         B. Mr. Lively's Arguments on Appeal

         Mr. Lively maintains that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. He argues that the ALJ failed to give proper weight to medical opinions, failed to fully develop the record, and failed to incorporate all of his limitations when finding his RFC. After reviewing the entire record, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not give due consideration to Mr. Lively's shoulder problems.

         Mr. Lively began having left shoulder pain in 2015. He had limited range of motion and could not lift his left arm above his shoulder without pain. (Tr. at 995) A 2015 MRI of the left shoulder showed fluid within the glenohumeral joint and within the subcoracoid bursa with intrasubstance tear of the supraspinatus tendon and subscapularis tendon. (Tr. at 1666) There was also increased signal intensity at the anterior glenoid labrum, which may indicate a tear. Id.

         Mr. Lively began physical therapy because of increasing pain, including pain during the night. (Tr. at 1288-1295) The physical therapist found decreased active range of motion, decreased strength, and increased pain in the left shoulder. Id. Mr. Lively discontinued physical therapy because he said the pain was worse after therapy, leaving him unable to lift his arm over his head. Id.

         Mr. Lively required a second MRI on November 11, 2016. (Tr. at 1315) His pain was progressively worsening. That MRI showed a substance tear involving components of the infraspinatus muscle beneath the coracoid posteriorly, a small amount of fluid collection at the subcoracoid bursa and along the supraspinatus tendon, and a ...

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