Jackson v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner; and dismissing 2 Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 8/26/2014. (srw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Ornetha Jackson, appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her claims for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). For reasons set out below, the decision
of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
On July 19, 2011, Ms. Jackson protectively filed for DIB benefits due to uncontrollable high
blood pressure, black-out spells, short term memory loss, fainting, poor vision, carpal tunnel
syndrome, and depression. (Tr. 186) Ms. Jackson’s claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. At Ms. Jackson’s request, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on
August 27, 2012, where Ms. Jackson appeared with her lawyer. (Tr. 59) At the hearing, the ALJ
heard testimony from Ms. Jackson and a vocational expert (“VE”). (Tr. 60-93)
The ALJ issued a decision on October 11, 2012, finding that Ms. Jackson was not disabled
under the Act. (Tr. 8-16) The Appeals Council denied Ms. Jackson’s request for review, making
the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. (Tr. 1-3)
Ms. Jackson, who was forty-seven years old at the time of the hearing, has her GED. (Tr. 26,
69) She has past relevant work as a data entry clerk, air condition assembler, and house parent.
DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE1
The ALJ found that Ms. Jackson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
March 24, 2010, and she had the following severe impairments: hypertension, adjustment disorder,
borderline intellectual functioning, carpal tunnel syndrome status post carpal tunnel release. (Tr. 11)
However, the ALJ found that Ms. Jackson did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
According to the ALJ, Ms. Jackson has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
sedentary work, and she can occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, and climb ramps or
stairs (but never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds). She can frequently handle, finger, and feel
However, she must avoid extreme temperatures, humidity, gases, fumes, other
environmental irritants, avoid unprotected heights and dangerous machinery, and cannot drive an
automobile as a job duty. Ms. Jackson is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive work with
occasional contact with supervisors, co-workers, and the general public. (Tr. 12) The VE testified
that the jobs available with these limitations were document preparer and addressor. (Tr. 90-91)
After considering the VE’s testimony, the ALJ determined that Ms. Jackson could perform
a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy, and found that Ms. Jackson was not
The ALJ followed the required sequential analysis to determine: (1) whether the claimant
was engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, whether the claimant had a severe impairment;
(3) if so, whether the impairment (or combination of impairments) met or equaled a listed
impairment; and (4) if not, whether the impairment (or combination of impairments) prevented the
claimant from performing past relevant work; and (5) if so, whether the impairment (or combination
of impairments) prevented the claimant from performing any other jobs available in significant
numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(g).
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526.
Standard of Review
In reviewing the Commissioner’s decision, this Court must determine whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the decision. Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d
860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “less than a preponderance,
but sufficient for reasonable minds to find it adequate to support the decision.” Id. (citing Guilliams
v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)).
In reviewing the record as a whole, the Court must consider both evidence that detracts from
the Commissioner’s decision and evidence that supports the decision; but, the decision cannot be
reversed “simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion.” Id. (citing Pelkey
v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006)).
Ms. Jackson’s Arguments for Reversal
Ms. Jackson asserts that the Commissioner’s decision should be reversed because it is not
support by substantial evidence. She argues that the ALJ’s hypothetical was in error since it was
based on an RFC not supported by the evidence. Additionally, she claims that the RFC “was based
largely on his determination that Jackson was not telling the truth about her pain and resulting
limitations.” (Doc. No. 11)
Regarding the hypothetical and RFC, the ALJ’s hypothetical included all limitations he found
credible. An ALJ need not include limitations for impairments that he did not find credible.3
Ms. Jackson’s other argument goes to the ALJ’s credibility assessment, and she contends that
there was evidence that she is disabled. However, the issue is not whether there was evidence to
Howe v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 835, 842 (8th Cir. 2007) (holding that a hypothetical “need only
include impairments that are supported by the record and that the ALJ accepts as valid”).
support Mr. Jackson’s claim of disability, but whether there was substantial evidence to support the
ALJ’s decision.4 As set out below, there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s decision:
1. Non-compliance5 -- The ALJ recognized that Ms. Jackson had a “history of
noncompliance with medical treatment.” (Tr. 13) For example, notes from July 2012 indicate a
“personal history of noncompliance with medical treatment, presenting hazards to health.” (Tr. 744).
At that visit, her blood pressure was 202/123, but she had not taken her blood pressure medication.
It also appears that Ms. Jackson has not lost weight, as directed by her doctor. For example,
in December 2011, she weighed 179 pounds, and that increased to 187 pounds by July 2012. (Tr.
2. Lack of Treatment6 -- Very few of the treatment records for the relevant time
period relate to Ms. Jackson’s carpal tunnel syndrome or high blood pressure. Since her alleged
onset date of March 20, 2010, she reported to the doctor on October 27, 2010, because of dizziness,
which was later found to be related to her high blood pressure. (Tr. 421) She picked up refills of
medication in November 2010 and again in April 2011. (Tr. 585, 589) She had carpal tunnel
surgeries in July and September 2011, and reported that she “had no problems after surgery” and was
“doing well . . . .” (Tr. 515, 521, 542) In January 2012, she went to the ER, and, oddly, her blood
pressure was found to be “diminished.” (Tr. 615) Though Ms. Jackson clearly has issues with her
Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962 (8th Cir. 2001) (“We may not reverse merely because
substantial evidence also exists that would support a contrary outcome, or because we would have
decided the case differently.”).
Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 802 (8th Cir.2005) (“A failure to follow a
recommended course of treatment . . . weighs against a claimant’s credibility.”).
Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 967 (8th Cir.2003) (An ALJ may weigh the credibility
of a claimant's subjective complaints of pain by considering multiple factors, including whether or
not the claimant seeks regular medical treatment.).
blood pressure, and has a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, the lack of frequency of visits supports
the ALJ’s position that the conditions may not be as severe as described by Ms. Jackson.
3. Controlled With Medication7 -- On a form dated April 11, 2012, Ms. Jackson
claimed that her blood pressure cannot be controlled. (Tr. 244) However, as mentioned in the
previous paragraph, her blood pressure issues generally appear to be resolved with medication;
otherwise, there would be far more visits to the doctor to address the problem.
4. Inconsistencies -- A Third Party Function report indicated that Ms. Jackson’s
daughter helps her get dressed, baths her, and cooks for her. (Tr. 199) Yet at the February 2010
hearing (before the alleged onset date) Ms. Jackson testified that she could dress, bathe, and take out
the trash. (Tr. 38-39) At the August 2012 hearing, however, Ms. Jackson testified that her daughter
did everything for her. (Tr. 67, 71) There is no objective medical evidence that would support this
much decrease in Ms. Jackson’s functions of daily living. In fact, from late 2010 into 2012, doctors
repeatedly noted that Ms. Jackson “can perform all activities of daily living without assistance.” (Tr.
427, 439, 718)
At the hearing, Ms. Jackson also testified that she had not driven in several years. (Tr. 75)
But, during an October 2011 psychological assessment, Ms. Jackson informed the doctor that she
could drive familiar routes, but depended on her daughter’s help when taking unfamiliar routes. She
also reported that she could perform household chores, but “not without physical pain.” (Tr. 546)
Ms. Jackson testified that she still has trouble holding things with her hands and ongoing
pain, but after her carpal tunnel surgery, there is hardly any mention of persistent carpal tunnel
issues. (Tr. 67) The ALJ properly considered the inconsistencies when weighing the credibility of
Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 725 (8th Cir. 2002) (“An impairment which can be
controlled by treatment or medication is not considered disabling.”).
Ms. Jackson’s claims.
The Court has reviewed the entire record, including the briefs, the ALJ’s decision, the
transcript of the hearing, and the medical and other evidence. There is sufficient evidence in the
record as a whole to support the Commissioner’s decision.
Accordingly, the Commissioner’s decision is affirmed and Ms. Jackson’s Complaint is
dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 26th day of August, 2014.
JOE J. VOLPE
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?