United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Bobbi Jean Simmons (“Simmons”), applied for
disability benefits on April 13, 2016, alleging a disability
onset date of August 19, 2015. (Tr. at 16). After conducting
a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ) denied her
application. (Tr. at 25). The Appeals Council denied her
request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Simmons
has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court reverses the ALJ's decision
and remands for further review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Simmons had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of August 19, 2015.
(Tr. at 18). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that Simmons has the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis of the knee, asthma, and
myasthenia gravis. Id.
Three, the ALJ determined that Simmons's impairments did
not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 19).
Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that
Simmons had the residual functional capacity (ARFC@) to
perform light work except that: 1) she can only occasionally
kneel, crouch, and crawl; 2) she cannot perform lower
extremity foot control operations; 3) she cannot climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; 4) she should be allowed to sit
and stand at will while performing work duties; 5) she should
be allowed to use a cane as necessary to access the work
station area on level ground; and 6) she should have no
concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, and gases. (Tr. at
found Simmons was capable of performing past relevant work as
an apartment manager. (Tr. at 23). In the alternative, the
ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
("VE") to find that, based on Simmons's age,
education, work experience and RFC, there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that Simmons
is capable of performing. (Tr. at 24). Based on that
determination, the ALJ held that Simmons was not disabled.
Standard of Review
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this
context means less than a preponderance but more than a
scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th
Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
ALJ's decision.” Id. (citation omitted).
The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports
a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision,
however, “merely because substantial evidence exists
for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater,
108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v.
Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).
Simmons's Arguments on Appeal
argues that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She contends that: 1)
the ALJ erred in his RFC determination; and 2) the ALJ should
have given more weight to the opinion of Ronald Hollis, M.D.,
Simmons' treating doctor. The Court agrees with Simmons
and finds that remand is proper.
focuses her argument on her knee condition. She had a left
patella dislocation in 1992 and underwent a placement of two
screws in April 2006. (Tr. at 334-339). In February 2014,
Timothy Krahn, M.D., an orthopedist, saw Simmons for chronic
pain and discomfort in the left knee, which was worsening to
the point of affecting her everyday activities. (Tr. at
435-440). An x-ray revealed severe arthritis in the knee with
bone-to-bone contact. Id. Dr. Krahn diagnosed
advanced degenerative arthritis with mild extensor lag.
Id. Dr. Krahn said “there is no question she
has advanced patellofemoral arthritis which obviously cannot
be cured with any type of arthroscopic procedure.” (Tr.
at 436). He said knee replacement was not advisable because
of Simmons' young age. (Tr. at 435-436).
December 2013, Simmons began treating with Dr. Hollis for
left knee osteoarthritis. (Tr. at 462-465). He prescribed
narcotic pain medications. Id. A nerve conduction
study in April 2015 revealed moderate sensory polyneuropathy
in the lower extremities. (Tr. at 416). Also in April 2015,
Dr. Hollis read an x-ray of the knee and diagnosed Simmons
with advanced degenerative changes with possible new
fractures. (Tr. at 446-451). He prescribed crutches and pain
management. Id. In April 2015, Dr. Krahn placed
Simmons in a knee immobilizer because of a distal pole
patellar fracture. (Tr. at 434). In June 2015, Dr. Krahn
found weakness in the left knee and put Simmons in a
drop-lock knee brace and recommended physical therapy. (Tr.
reported to Dr. Hollis in January 2016 that she had severe
difficulty walking and all-over body pain. (Tr. at 442-450).
He continued her on pain medication, and he started her on
prednisone in June 2016. (Tr. at 452-461). In December 2016,