Lindsley v. Social Security Administration
ORDER re 2 Complaint filed by Tammy Lindsley. Plaintiff must file a new application to have the SSA evaluate her functioning for the period following the ALJ's June 15, 2011 decision. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 12/4/12. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MICHAEL ASTRUE, Commissioner of
Social Security Administration
When Tammy Lindsley was serving in the Marine Corps, a drunk driver
hit her vehicle, severely fracturing her pelvis. Five years later, she suffered
a thoracic compression fracture. She developed a knee problem about five
years later. Although the first, most-serious injury occurred in 1985, all of
these injuries have resulted in chronic pain. Lindsley filed concurrent claims
for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in May 2009. The claims were
denied initially and upon reconsideration.
After a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge concluded that Lindsley was not entitled to any
disability benefits because she could still perform light work. The Appeals
Council denied Lindsley's request for review, so she has fully exhausted her
Lindsley now challenges the sufficiency of the
record supporting the denial of the benefits she sought. Specifically, Lindsley
says the ALJ improperly determined that she could perform light work,
including her past work as a cashier, and that her testimony was not credible.
The Court declines Lindlsey' s invitation to re-weigh the evidence.
When the Court reviews the decision of the ALJ, u[t]he findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is
uless than a preponderance but enough that a reasonable person would find
it adequate to support the decision." Boettcher v. As true, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th
Cir. 2011 ). This Court considers all the evidence, but it will not reverse simply
because the evidence could also support a contrary conclusion. Ibid. Though,
as Lindsley presses, some of the medical evidence and opinions in the record
support her position, it is not enough to tip the scales in her favor.
For example, the Veteran Administration's determination that Lindsley
is 20% disabled does not determine disability before the Commissioner,
though, of course, it is a fact favoring Lindsley's claim. Nguyen v. Chater, 75
F.3d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1996).
Taking the whole record into account,
substantial evidence supports the ALJ' s decision that she is able to perform
her past light work as a cashier or other light work described by the
vocational expert. And to the extent Lindsley challenges the ALJ' s credibility
analysis, the ALJ properly analyzed Lindsley's subjective complaints in light
of Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320 (8th Cir. 1984) and related authority.
The record shows that Lindsley's residual pain from her injuries was
controlled with medications during the relevant period. She returned to work
as a heavy equipment operator for a time in 2008. Then she applied for
unemployment benefits, which she could not obtain without confirming that
she was capable of returning to her past work. Johnson v. Chater, 108 F.3d 178,
179-80 (8th Cir. 1997). Not all pain is disabling, and the fact that Lindsley
cannot work without some pain or discomfort does not entitle her to disability
Moad v. Massanari, 260 F.3d 887, 891 (8th Cir. 2001).
impairments that medication can control are not disabling. Wilson v. Chater,
76 F.3d 238, 241 (8th Cir. 1996); Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 431 (8th Cir.
Although Lindsley claims it is not, her work as a cashier is past relevant
work because she performed it within the last 15 years, her activity level was
substantially gainful, and she worked long enough to learn how to do it. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1565,416.965. In addition to the analysis of the facts on record,
the ALJ properly consulted the vocational expert to determine which jobs
would be appropriate for someone with Lindsley's limitations, including
inability to sit or stand for prolonged periods. Depover v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d
563,567 (8th Cir. 2003). The expert advised that someone with her limitations
would still be able to perform light work, such as a cashier job. Lindsley's
high school education with some college and vocational training may even
allow her to pursue jobs that require more skilled work that accommodates
her physical limitations.
The Court also defers to the ALJ' s credibility determinations, "so long
as such determinations are supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence." Vester v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886, 889 (8th Cir. 2005). Even if this
Court finds evidence supporting two inconsistent positions, if "one of those
positions represents the ALJ's findings, [then] the [C]ourt must affirm the
ALJ's decision." Partee v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 860,863 (8th Cir. 2011). Here, good
reasons and substantial evidence support the ALJ' s conclusion that Lindsley's
statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her
symptoms are not credible because they are inconsistent with the residual
functional capacity assessment. McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 614 (8th Cir.
2011). Contrary to Lindsley's testimony that her pain was disabling, her
doctors encouraged her to maintain an active lifestyle and did not impose
restrictions. She also did not display any of the observable manifestations of
severe pain, such as weight loss, muscle atrophy, muscle spasms, or adverse
neurological signs. It is clear that Lindsley is in some pain all of the time,
however, and the ALJ did account for that fact when he restricted her to light
Overall, the ALJ's opinion shows his careful consideration of all
Lindsley's medical problems, including her chronic pain. In making his
decision, the ALJ discussed her doctors' opinions, her subjective pain
complaints and limitations, and her daily activities. The ALJ' s determinations
that Lindsley is not disabled, that her pain complaints are not totally credible,
and that she can still perform light work are supported by substantial
The denial of benefits is affirmed with a correction and a
supplement to the ALJ's findings: #6 should reflect that Lindsley is not
capable of performing her former job as a heavy equipment operator, which
is clear from other parts of the ALJ' s findings and the record; and #2 should
be supplemented to note that, though Lindsley worked some in 2008, the
record contains insufficient evidence to find substantial gainful activity within
the meaning of the regulation. 20 C.P.R. § 404.1520(b).
To the extent that Lindsley believes that her recent fall and use of a
walker, as a safety precaution, show a deterioration of her functional ability,
she must file a new application to have the SSA evaluate her functioning for
the period following the ALJ's 15 June 2011 decision. Bergmann v. Apfel, 207
F.3d 1065, 1069 (8th Cir. 2000).
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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