Stepp v. Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER. The final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed and Stepp's complaint is dismissed, with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 7/13/2016. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
LISA ANN STEPP
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER
Lisa Stepp applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged
onset date of November 1, 2011. (R. at 47). The administrative law judge (ALJ)
found that Stepp was not disabled, and the Appeals Council declined to review the
decision, which now stands as the Commissioner’s final decision. (R. at 1). Stepp
has requested judicial review, and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the Magistrate Judge.
For the reasons stated below, this Court affirms the ALJ’s decision.
The Commissioner’s Decision
The ALJ found that Stepp had the severe impairments of history of end-
stage renal disease, status post-left kidney removal, hernia repair, and history of
hip and knee surgery. (R. at 11). At step 3, the ALJ determined that Stepp did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met the listings of 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. at 14). The ALJ found Stepp had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with the limitation
of only occasionally stooping, crouching, crawling, or kneeling. (R. at 15). Further,
she could perform work where the complexity of tasks can be learned by
experience, could use judgment within limits, and required little supervision for
routine tasks but detailed supervision for non-routine tasks. (R. at 15). The RFC
precluded any of Stepp’s past relevant work. (R. at 18). After considering
testimony from a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ determined that Stepp could
work in jobs such as information clerk, telephone solicitor, or appointment clerk.
(R. at 19). Accordingly, the ALJ held that Stepp was not disabled. (R. at 20).
Stepp argues that, at step 3 of the evaluative process, the ALJ failed to
consider her impairments in combination, which would have allowed those
impairments to meet a listing. She also argues that, even if her impairments do not
meet or equal a listing, her impairments prevent her from engaging in substantial
This Court must affirm the ALJ’s decision if it is supported by “substantial
evidence in the record as a whole,” which has been defined to mean “less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
support the ALJ’s decision.” Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009).
Even if two inconsistent conclusions can be drawn from the evidence, the Court
must affirm if one of those conclusions is consistent with the ALJ’s findings.
Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).
Stepp fails to provide any support for her contention that her impairments
meet any listing. She merely lists her impairments and asserts that they meet an
unspecified listing. Her brief contains no analysis of the law or any connection
between her impairments and any specific listing. The Eighth Circuit has rejected
such arguments as mere “conclusory assertion[s]” when a claimant does not
analyze the law or facts allegedly supporting the contention. Vandenboom v.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 745, 750 (8th Cir. 2005). The Court is not responsible for
doing the work of Stepp’s counsel in fleshing out her argument, nor can it
speculate as to what she intends to argue if she does not present the argument
Stepp states that the ALJ stopped evaluating her impairments at step 2 of the
evaluative process, but does not elaborate beyond making that conclusory
statement. Contrary to Stepp’s assertion, the record makes it clear that the ALJ
completed an analysis at steps 3, 4, and 5 of the evaluative process. (R. at 14–20).
Finally, Stepp makes the broad assertion that she cannot engage in
substantial gainful activity based on: chronic vertigo and dizziness; extreme
limitations of the left hip that will require surgery and prevent her from sitting;
residual problems from carpal tunnel surgery; and lifting restrictions caused by a
hernia. However, she again cites to no evidence to support these allegedly
In his decision, the ALJ fully and fairly considered all of Stepp’s
impairments, both severe and non-severe, in determining that she was not disabled.
(R. at 10). It is not the role of this Court to reweigh the evidence. Howe v. Astrue,
499 F.3d 835, 839 (8th Cir. 2007). While Stepp contends that the ALJ should have
included her vertigo and dizziness in his hypothetical question to the VE, the ALJ
need only include impairments that find substantial support from the evidence in
the record. Lacroix v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 881, 889 (8th Cir. 2006). Stepp has failed
to point to any substantial evidence in the record supporting those additional
impairments which were not included in the ALJ’s hypothetical question.
It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an
independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there
is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole which supports the decision of the
ALJ. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). The Court has reviewed
the entire record, including the briefs, the ALJ's decision, and the transcript of the
hearing. The Court concludes that the record as a whole contains ample evidence
that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support [the] conclusion" of
the ALJ in this case. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The Court
further concludes that the ALJ's decision is not based on legal error.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the final decision of the Commissioner
is affirmed and Stepp’s Complaint is DISMISSED, WITH PREJUDICE.
DATED this 13th day of July, 2016.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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