Miller v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner and denying benefits to the plaintiff. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 12/4/12. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JOHN M. MILLER
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration
John Miller was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 36. He is now
51. Miller was a businessman for more than twenty years and managed his
condition with minor interruption. After a slip and fall about eight years ago,
he sought treatment for back pain. MRis showed that he suffered from severe
degenerative disc disease, mild to moderate central canal narrowing, and
moderate degenerative facet arthropathy at all levels. He applied for
supplemental security income and disability benefits income. Miller's claim
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. The ALJ then held a hearing
and also denied Miller's claim. After the Appeals Council refused his request
for further review, Miller appealed to this Court. In the circumstances, the
ALJ' s decision is the Commissioner's decision.
Miller argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ' s
determination of his residual functional capacity and that the ALJ erred in
failing to consider if Miller met the listing for 12.02 orgallic brain dysfunction.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923,925 (8th Cir. 2009); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Evidence
is substantial if, looking at the whole record, "a reasonable mind would find
it adequate." Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894 (8th Cir. 2006); see also
Nevland v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 853, 857 (8th Cir. 2000). The Court considers all
evidence, but will not reverse simply because the evidence could also support
a contrary conclusion. Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011).
The thrust of Miller's argument is that ALJ incorrectly determined his
residual functional capacity. He says the ALJ cherry-picked information
unfavorable to the claim and did not assess non-severe impairments mental and physical - that affect Miller's ability to work. Substantial
evidence, however, supports the ALJ' s conclusion that Miller has the capacity
to perform light work, limited to simple job tasks and instructions. No
medical evidence, including none of the doctors' reports, finds that Miller's
physical conditions preclude his ability to do light work. And Miller's own
assessment of his daily activity supports his capacity to work. He admits
being able to take walks, drive, run errands, perform chores, and use the
computer. The lack of medical evidence and Miller's daily routine, combined
with Miller's testimony of his recent work history (including a stint as a
security guard), support the ALJ' s conclusion.
The ALJ also considered Miller's back patn and difficulty with
movement. He discussed in depth Dr. Abraham's objective assessment of
Miller's physical limitations. The ALJ noted that Miller had a normal range
of motion in his extremities and cervical spine, that he had twenty to twentyfive degrees of flexion in his lumber spine, that his reflexes were normal, that
his grip strength was adequate, and that he walked using a cane, but could
walk without it. The ALJ also considered Miller's subjective complaints of
pain - complaints that can be discounted if they are inconsistent with the
record as a whole. 20 C.P.R.§§ 404.1529,416.929; McKinney v. Apfel, 228 F.3d
860, 864 (8th Cir. 2000).
And numerous parts of Miller's testimony
contradicted either prior testimony or evidence in the record. For example,
Miller stated at his hearing that he suffered two heart attacks in 2008, but
thorough medical records did not support the claim. During his more recent
visit with Dr. Bunting, Miller gave a number of contradictory statements
about his work history, his medical history, and his past alcohol and drug
abuse, all of which the ALJ discussed in-depth. These inconsistencies support
the ALJ' s conclusion that Miller's credibility was significantly undermined.
Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 968-969 (8th Cir. 2010). This conclusion in
turn supports the ALJ' s determination that Miller's physical non-severe
impairments are consistent with his capacity to work.
The ALJ also considered Miller's mental and social fitness to work. He
discussed Miller's positive response to medication, while employed, for more
than a decade, noting that the record shows no significant deficits in
concentration, memory, and attention when compliant with treatment. The
ALJ nonetheless determined that Miller was limited to performing simple job
tasks and instructions. This is wholly consistent with the medical evidence
in the record. Dr. Bunting opined that Miller was markedly limited in his
ability to remember and carry out complex instructions, but only moderately
limited in his ability to remember and carry out simple instructions. Dr.
Abraham's assessment states only that Miller's bipolar disorder may
contribute to his inability to work. It makes no distinctions between the types
of tasks to which Miller may be suited. Here too, Miller's own testimony of
his normal activity supports the ALJ' s determination that he has the ability to
work with others. Miller notes he often visits with friends and neighbors,
participates in a choir, and attends meetings in Little Rock. This evidence
thus supports the ALJ' s finding that Miller can perform light work with
simple tasks and instructions.
Miller next contends that the ALJ failed to consider an additional listing,
12.02 organic mental disorder. The record makes no mention of an organic
mental disorder, only bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, and personality
Nothing in the record demonstrates repeated episodes of
deterioration or decompensation in work or work-like situations -the type
of decompensation needed to meet or equal the 12.02listing. Miller points to
a single instance of decompensation in 2008. This occurred in a hospital. The
ALJ noted this episode in his decision. And this decompensation was neither
repeated, nor in a work situation. In the circumstances, further consideration
of the 12.02listing was not necessary. Because substantial evidence supports
the ALJ' s determination that Miller did not suffer repeated episodes of
decompensation, the ALJ committed no error in failing to mention the 12.02
* * *
Substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Miller has the
instructions. The ALJ committed no error in failing to consider the listing for
12.02 organic brain disorder. The denial of benefits is affirmed.
D.P. Mar~hall Jr.
United States District Judge
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