Ellis v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner and dismissing the complaint. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 9/27/12. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
BETTY JEAN ELLIS
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
Does substantial evidence on the record as a whole, evidence that a
reasonable mind would accept as adequate, support the Commissioner's
decision that Betty Jean Ellis is not disabled? Reutter ex rel. Reutter v. Barnhart,
372 F.3d 946, 950 (8th Cir. 2004). She is forty-one years old. She graduated
from high school and has worked on an assembly line, as a grill cook, a
waitress, a Medicaid assistant, and a nursing attendant. Ellis, everyone
agrees, has severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, hypertension, asthma, a
Baker's cyst on her left knee, and obesity. She also has asthma, as well as
various diabetes-associated problems. The ALJ concluded nonetheless that
Ellis could perform sedentary work, so long as she avoided exposure to
fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and the like. After considering a vocational
expert's testimony, the ALJ concluded that work she could do- such as a
telemarketer or food checker- was available. Ellis challenges the ALJ' s
detailed and careful opinion on three points.
First, the Court is not persuaded that the ALJ overlooked some severe
The record contains no medical evidence of pulmonary
sarcoidosis or a cerebrovascular accident. While a nurse practitioner did
diagnose depression from time to time, Ellis has received no sustained
treatment for this condition from a mental health professional.
circumstances thus call into doubt the severity of this condition. Kirby v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 709 (8th Cir. 2007). Ellis's congestive heart failure is
responding to medical treatment, and thus cannot be disabling. Schultz v.
Astrue, 479 F.3d 979, 983 (8th Cir. 2007). The medical evidence, moreover,
supports the ALJ' s conclusion that medication could control Ellis's high blood
pressure, hypertension, and asthma: so concluded Ellis's cardiologist and
nurse practitioner. Substantial evidence supports the ALJ' s conclusions about
the severity of Ellis's various impairments.
Second, the Court is not persuaded that the ALJ improperly evaluated
Ellis's complaints of pain and discomfort. The ALJ considered them. But he
discounted them as inconsistent with the evidence as a whole. No Polaski
error occurred. Ellis's complaints of back pain, for example, are inconsistent
with her having a full range of motion, no tenderness, and no diagnosis of
degenerative disc disease or other back problem. Ellis's complaints come
down to credibility. The ALJ looked to the record as a whole and gave good
reasons- including Ellis's noncompliance in taking prescribed medicine- for
discounting her subjective complaints. Precedent requires no more. Gregg v.
Barnhart, 354 F.3d 710, 713 (8th Cir. 2003).
Third, the Court sees no error in the ALJ' s assessment of Ellis's residual
functional capacity. Contrary to Ellis's argument, the ALJ did a function-byfunction analysis that complied with Social Security Regulation 96-Bp. Tr. at
15-16,24-27. As to Ellis's supposedly low Global Assessment of Functioning
scores, the Commissioner rightly notes that the record also contains evidence
of later and higher scores. The ALJ did not err in how he assessed Ellis's
residual functional capacity.
On review for legal error and substantial evidence, the Court affirms the
denial of benefits.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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