Perkins v. Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER denying Ms. Perkins's request for relief 2 . Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 12/13/2013. (Smith, Kyle)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CASE NO.: 1:10CV00095 BD
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,1 Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER
Plaintiff Carolyn Perkins sought judicial review of the denial of her applications
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.2 In her May 10, 2006
applications, Ms. Perkins alleged that she became disabled on January 1, 1999, but at her
hearing she amended the onset date to August 1, 2005. (SSA record at 1322) Ms.
Perkins based her disability claims on a spinal injury and hip impairments.3
On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security. She is therefore substituted as the named Defendant for Michael J.
Astrue, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d).
Ms. Perkins remained insured through June 30, 2006. Consequently, she must
establish disability on or before that date in order to be entitled to disability insurance
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.131; SSA record at 19.
Plaintiff claims to have chronic pain syndrome and to meet listing 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 1.02, but she does not cite to any evidence in the record to
establish that she meets the specific criteria required to meet the listing. (#14 at p. 6)
Accordingly, the claim does not warrant further discussion and is summarily dismissed.
See Johnson v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 1067, 1070 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing Sullivan v. Zebley,
493 U.S. 521, 530–31, 110 S.Ct. 885 (1990)) (step three requires the claimant to establish
that an impairment meets or equals a listing by establishing all of the listing’s specified
Ms. Perkins was forty years old at the time of her May 24, 2012, hearing. (Id. at
1324) She had a tenth-grade education and had passed the General Educational
Development exam. (Id.) She had past work as a factory worker, housekeeper, and
sitter. She lived with her disabled husband and her two daughters, one of whom was also
The Commissioner’s Decision
On September 8, 2008, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) denied Ms. Perkins’s
claims, and the Appeals Council declined review. Ms. Perkins appealed. (Docket entry
#2) While her appeal was pending, she filed new applications for benefits, and an ALJ
held a second hearing. (SSA record at 18) The ALJ denied the applications. (Id. at 23040)
On March 17, 2011, Ms. Perkins’s appeal was remanded to the Commissioner
because the Commissioner could not locate the claims file or the recording of Ms.
Perkins’s first administrative hearing. (#7) The Appeals Council found that the remand
had rendered her new applications moot. (Id. at 18)
criteria); see also Vandenboom v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 745, 750 (8th Cir. 2005) (summarily
rejecting conclusory assertion that ALJ did not consider whether appellant met certain
listings, where no analysis of law or facts was provided); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1525(d), 416.925(d) (2011); Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926, 929 (8th Cir. 2004)
(diagnoses are not sufficient, by themselves, to demonstrate that a condition meets the
requisite medical criteria).
After holding a third hearing, the ALJ denied Ms. Perkins’s applications for
benefits. (Id. at 18-30) The Commissioner’s ALJ determined that Ms. Perkins had severe
impairments– degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, fibromyalgia, and
chondromalacia of the right knee. (Id. at 21) The ALJ also found, however, that Ms.
Perkins had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work; she had no
limitations as far as operation of hand or foot controls; she could occasionally climb
ramps or stairs; but never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and could occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. (Id. at 24-28) He also found she had no
environmental or any other non-exertional impairment. (Id.) Because the vocational
expert testified that there were jobs available that a person with Ms. Perkins’s RFC could
perform,4 the ALJ concluded that she was not disabled under the Social Security Act and
denied the applications. (Id. at 28-30)
After the Commissioner’s Appeals Council denied Ms. Perkins’s request for
review, the ALJ’s June 15, 2012 decision became a final decision for judicial review. (Id.
at 8-9) Ms. Perkins reopened this case to challenge the ALJ’s decision. In reviewing the
decision, the court must determine whether substantial evidence supported the decision
and whether the ALJ made a legal error.5
The ALJ testified that a person with Ms. Perkins’s RFC could perform the jobs of
cashier and waitress. Id. at 29.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (requiring the district court to determine whether the
Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the
Commissioner conformed with applicable regulations); Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923,
Ms. Perkins claims that the ALJ failed to account for her chronic back pain,
mental impairments, and side effects from her medication, but substantial evidence
supports the ALJ’s determination that Ms. Perkins was not fully credible. (SSA record at
An ALJ has a duty “to assess the credibility of the claimant and other witnesses.”
Nelson v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 363, 366 (8th Cir. 1992). A reviewing court “will defer to an
ALJ’s credibility finding as long as the ALJ explicitly discredits a claimant’s testimony
and gives a good reason for doing so.” Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 968 (8th Cir.
2010) (citation omitted).
To evaluate Ms. Perkins’s credibility, the ALJ followed the required two-step
process and considered the required factors.6 SSA record at pp. 24-28; see Policy
Interpretation Ruling Titles II & XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims:
925 (8th Cir. 2009) (stating that the court’s “review of the Commissioner’s denial of
benefits is limited to whether the decision is ‘supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole’”); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (“We will uphold
the Commissioner’s decision to deny an applicant disability benefits if the decision is not
based on legal error and if there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support
the conclusion that the claimant was not disabled.”).
In considering the credibility of a claimant’s subjective complaints, an ALJ must
consider: (1) the claimant's prior work record; (2) observations by third parties and
treating and examining physicians relating to such matters as: (a) the claimant's daily
activities; (b) the duration, frequency and intensity of the pain; (c) precipitating and
aggravating factors; (d) dosage, effectiveness and side effects of medication; and (e)
functional restrictions. Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984).
Assessing the Credibility of an Individual's Statements, SSR 96-7p (July 2, 1996). Thus,
the question before the court is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
The ALJ may discount a claimant’s complaints of pain if they are inconsistent with
the evidence as a whole. Dunahoo v. Apfel, 241 F.3d 1033, 1038 (8th Cir. 2001);
Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 418 (8th Cir. 1996) (“An ALJ may discount a
claimant’s subjective complaints of pain only if there are inconsistencies in the record as
An MRI of Ms. Perkins’s back in September, 2006, showed only mild
degenerative changes with a small disc bulge and no nerve root or thecal sac
compression. (Id. at 573) A CT of her lumbar spine in September 2008 showed no
apparent compression of her lumbar vertebrae. (Id. at 509) An x-ray of her lumbar spine
in September, 2008, showed “mild” intevertebral narrowing at L5-S1. (Id. at 508) And
a November, 2008 MRI of her lumbar spine showed only a mild disc bulge with no
effacement of the dural sac or nerve roots. (Id. at 500) An x-ray of her left foot in
January, 2009, showed no fractures or dislocations and an x-ray of her right knee in
November, 2009, showed normal alignment and joint spaces with no soft tissue
abnormalities, fractures, or bony lesions. (Id. at 494, 772)
Dr. Donald Lamoureaux, Ms. Perkins’s primary care physician, repeatedly
described Ms. Perkins as in no acute distress, with a normal gait, and with no motor
sensory deficits. (Id. at 539, 635, 701, 704, 707, 710, 713, 716, 725, 732, 735, 738, 741,
744, 747, 750, 753, 756, 759, 761, 763, 765, 767, 834, 864, 874, 877) On examination
by Meraj Siddiqui, M.D., in March, 2011, Ms. Perkins’s muscle strength and tone were
normal in her upper and lower extremities, and she showed normal deep tendon reflexes.
(Id. at 977-78)
None of Ms. Perkins’s treating physicians imposed work restrictions on Ms.
Perkins. To the contrary, Dr. Siddiqui advised Ms. Perkins to maintain normal activities.
(Id. at 978)
Ms. Perkins claims her mental impairments prevented her from working. The
record, however, supports the ALJ’s conclusion that Ms. Perkins’s mental impairments
did not significantly affect her ability to work. Ms. Perkins’s treating physician, Dr.
Lamoureax, observed during her visits between December 2005 and September 2010,
that her judgment, insight, orientation, memory, mood, and affect were normal. (SSR at
580, 701, 704, 707, 710, 713, 716, 719, 722, 725, 732, 735, 738, 741, 744, 747, 750,
753, 756, 759, 761, 763, 765, 767, 874-77, 1022, 1028, 1031, 1033) Dr. Lamoureax also
repeatedly noted that Mr. Perkins’s anxiety was controlled by medication. (Id. at 701,
704, 707, 710, 713, 716, 719, 722, 725, 729, 735, 738, 741, 744, 747, 750, 753, 756,
759, 760, 767, 1028)
Physicians who treated Ms. Perkins in the emergency room in November, 2004;
January, August, and November 2007; April and September 2008; and September 2009
all noted that Ms. Perkins showed normal memory, insight, concentration, and speech.
(Id. at 488, 505, 516, 522-23, 539, 635)
In March, 2010, Kenneth Hobby, Ph.D., conducted a mental health evaluation of
Ms. Perkins and noted that she maintained appropriate eye contact, showed normal motor
activity thought processes, exhibited no limitations in her ability to attend and sustain
concentration, and demonstrated appropriate mood and affect with good contact with
reality. (Id. at 793-94, 798) Dr. Hobby concluded that Ms. Perkins could respond to
normal instructions, would probably respond adequately to work pressures, and the pace
at which she worked was steady and appropriate for completing basic work-like tasks.
(Id. at 798) In spite of her allegations of panic attacks, Ms. Perkins reported panic
attacks to a physician only on two occasions. (Id. at 789-800, 977)
Ms. Perkins complains that the ALJ failed to consider the side effects of her
medications, including dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, and memory loss. (#14 at p. 2)
The record, however, indicates that Ms. Perkins complained of mental confusion due to
her medication on only two occasions, and both times she had accidentally overdosed.
(Id. at 884, 878)
The ALJ also considered that Ms. Perkins had a sporadic work history that
included work performed after her alleged disability onset date. (Id. at 25) Additionally,
he considered Ms. Perkins’s daily activity level. (Id. at 118, 122-24, 140, 143, 752, 791,
833, 873, 876, 995) She reported being able to take care of herself without help, help
care for her disabled husband, cook quick meals, take her medications without assistance,
watch television, vacuum, wash dishes, and do laundry. (Id.) She also told her physicians
she had back pain after activities such as lifting her grandchildren, helping her daughter
move to college, and taking care of her grandchild. (Id. at 752, 833, 873, 876, 995) The
ALJ’s credibility determination is supported by substantial evidence.
Residual Functional Capacity
The ALJ found that Ms. Perkins could perform light work; she had no limitations
as far as operation of hand or foot controls; she could occasionally climb ramps or stairs;
but never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. He also found she had no environmental or any other non-exertional
impairment. (Id. at p. 24) Ms. Perkins complains that the ALJ erred by finding she
could perform light work. She argues that she could not, due to her inability to ambulate
effectively. Ms. Perkins testified that she had taken several bad falls and had fallen at
Wal-Mart twice and at the Dollar Store. (Id. at 1326, 1329)
As set forth above, the ALJ found Ms. Perkins’s statements were not credible.
Again, Dr. Lamoureaux repeatedly characterized her gait as normal and noted no motor
or sensory deficits. (Id. at 539, 635, 701, 704, 707, 710, 713, 716, 725, 732, 735, 738,
741, 744, 747, 750, 753, 756, 759, 761, 763, 765, 767, 834, 864, 874, 877) None of her
physicians imposed restrictions on her activity level, and Dr. Siddiqi advised her to
maintain normal activites. (Id. at 978) Ms. Perkins’s activities of daily living also
support the ALJ’s RFC finding. (Id. at 118, 122, 123, 124, 140, 143, 752, 833, 873, 876,
Further, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia alone does not establish a disabling
impairment. See Perkins v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 892, 899-900 (8th Cir. 2011). Here, the
ALJ considered Ms. Perkins’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia along with her other
impairments when determining her RFC. (SSA record at 24-28)
Finally, Ms. Perkins complains that the ALJ did not ask the Vocational Expert
(“VE”) a proper hypothetical because the hypothetical did not include any mental
limitations. (#14 at p. 7) Having concluded above, however, that the ALJ did not err in
assessing Ms. Perkins’s credibility or RFC, the ALJ’s hypothetical included all of the
limitations supported by the record. Accordingly, the VE’s testimony was sufficient
evidence to support the ALJ’s conclusion at step five that Ms. Perkins was not disabled.
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision denying Ms. Perkins’s
applications. The ALJ made no legal error. For these reasons, Ms. Perkins’s request for
relief (docket entry # 2) is DENIED, and the decision denying the applications for
benefits is AFFIRMED.
DATED this 13th day of December, 2013.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?