Tackett v. Social Security Administration
ORDER finding substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's conclusions, the Court affirms the denial of benefits. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 3/23/12. (vjt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Commissioner of Social Security
Jamie Tackett has back problems - degenerative disc disease and
curvature of the lumbar spine. She says that she is plagued by lower back
pain and shooting leg pains that sometimes cause her to fall. Doctors have
prescribed darvocet, hydrocodone, and methadone. Tr. at 150. The ALJ
concluded that Tackett can perform the full range of sedentary work. Does
substantial evidence support that finding?
Tackett alleges that the A LJ (1) overlooked Tackett's lack of funds when
it concluded that her course of treatment suggested less serious pain than she
described; (2) failed to evaluate Tackett's diminished ability to stand and
walk; and (3) neglected to have the vocational expert address Tackett's
The first issue touches credibility. The ALJ noted that Tackett sought
medical treatment only six times in three years for her pain. Tr. at 14. "The
lack of continual and longitudinal treatment for the back impairment
indicates that [Tackett] does not have limitations to the degree that she asserts
she is precluded from all work-related activities." Ibid. At the hearing,
Tackett said that a doctor had recommended surgery she could not afford,
and that she would have the surgery if she could afford it. Tr. at 29-30. And
Tackett contends on appeal that poverty, not malingering, explains her spotty
treatment record. Document No. 10, at 14.
True, by 2008 Tackett had lost Medicaid coverage. Tr. at 198. At the
time of the ALI's hearing Tackett relied on child support, HUD, and food
stamps to get by. Tr. at 23. And the record is regrettably silent about how
often Tackett refilled pain prescriptions between doctors' visits. But Tackett's
lack of comprehensive medical treatment was not the only basis for the ALI's
conclusion. As the ALJ noted, she can "prepare simple meals, fold clothes,
and provide care of a very young son." Tr. at 15. She sometimes drives. In
2007 Tackett told a doctor she'd had back pain for only one year, Tr. at 170,
but she sought benefits from 2002 forward. And her 2007 MRI revealed only
"mild to moderate spine changes." Tr. at 176. In sum, substantial evidence
supports the ALI's conclusion that Tackett's alleged limitations were not fully
credible. See generally Steed v. Astrue, 524 F.3d 872 (8th Cir. 2008).
Tackett next contends that the ALJ inadequately accounted for Tackett's
problems walking and standing when he concluded she could do sedentary
work. Nonbinding Social Security Administration policy holds that sedentary
work involves about six hours a day of sitting. PROGRAM OPERATIONS
MANUAL SYSTEMS § DI 25001.001(B)(69), https:/ / secure.ssa.gov / poms.nsf/
Inx/0425001001 (last visited 23 March 2012). It requires occasionally lifting
no more than 10 pounds. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a). Tackett testified that 15 or
20 pounds was the most she could pick up with any regularity. Tr. at 27.
Tackett's household activities require some walking and standing. And a
medical expert concluded that Tackett could stand or walk for about six hours
with normal breaks. Tr. at 180. This is substantial evidence supporting the
ALI's conclusion that Tackett can perform the full range of sedentary work.
Tackett asserts as a third basis for remand that the ALJ should have
obtained the vocational expert's views about her degenerative disc disease
and levoscoliosis. Document No. 10, at 2. But for the reasons already stated,
the ALJ's reliance on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines was appropriate and
expert testimony unnecessary. Thompson v. Bowen, 850 F.2d 346, 349-50 (8th
The Court might have reached a different conclusion in this case if its
job was to find the facts and apply the law to them. But lI'[i]f, after reviewing
the record, the court finds it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions
from the evidence and one of those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the
court must affirm the ALJ's decision." Partee v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 863 (8th
Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). On review for legal error and substantial
evidence supporting the ALJ's conclusions, the Court affirms the denial of
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
?- '3 M~;w I ;l..
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