Bradford v. Social Security Administration
ORDER REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER. The ALJ's decision is reversed and remanded, with instructions to further develop the record as necessary and to reevaluate Bradford's residual functional capacity. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 1/17/2017. (jak)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Social Security Administration
ORDER REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER
Catherine Bradford (“Bradford”) applied for social security disability
benefits with an alleged disability onset date of June 22, 2013. (R. at 61). The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held that Bradford was not disabled. (R. at 24).
The Appeals Council denied Bradford’s request for review, making the ALJ’s
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1). Cullum has requested
For the reasons stated below, the Court reverses and remands the
The Commissioner’s Decision
In his decision, the ALJ determined that Bradford had the severe
impairments of affective disorder and chronic pulmonary insufficiency. (R. at 13).
The ALJ then held that Bradford had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge.
perform work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations:
she could only perform unskilled work that can be learned by rote with few
variables and requires little judgment; she is limited to incidental interpersonal
contact and requires simple, direct, and concrete supervision; and she should avoid
concentrated exposure to odors, dust, fumes, pulmonary irritants, extreme cold, and
extreme heat. (R. at 17). A vocational expert (“VE”) testified that this RFC
allowed Bradford to return to past relevant work as a retail stocker, a light cleaner,
or a gas station cashier. (R. at 23). Thus, the ALJ held that Bradford was not
disabled. (R. at 23–24).
The Court’s function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner’s
decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether
it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Bradford argues that the ALJ’s RFC determination is not supported by
substantial evidence. Specifically, she argues that the ALJ erred by failing to
include any exertional limitations in the RFC.
The ALJ acknowledged findings that Bradford had bilateral osteoarthritis in
the knees as well as chronic back pain that restricted her range of motion, but
concluded that her knee and back impairments were “non-severe.” (R. at 15).
Radiological findings showed disk bulges in the lumbar spine, degenerative
spondylosis, and lower lumbar facet arthropathy. (R. at 638, 660-61). Bradford
suffered from reduced range of motion in the lumbar spine. (R. at 623, 641).
Although medical records show that Bradford’s back pain improved after receiving
two lumbar injections in May 2014, the evidence also shows that she reported, less
than a month later, that she was unable to bend a full 90 degrees without
experiencing pain. (R. at 617, 640).
Nevertheless, in the face of this and other evidence, the ALJ held that
Bradford had no exertional limitations. The only opinion from a treating medical
provider is the opinion of Bradford’s nurse practitioner, who assigned her fairly
restrictive exertional limitations. (R. at 637–38). While this opinion is not from an
“acceptable medical source,” as defined by 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1513(a), 416.913(a),
the record contains no acceptable treating or examining source opinion as to
Bradford’s RFC. In light of the objective medical evidence showing Bradford’s
back pain and bilateral knee osteoarthritis, and the opinion of her nurse
practitioner, it is difficult to imagine that Bradford can work at all exertional levels
up to and including very heavy work, which involves lifting objects weighing over
100 pounds and frequently lifting and carrying of objects weighing 50 pounds or
more. 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1567(e), 416.967(e). Substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ’s RFC determination.
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, 784 F.3d at 477. 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 does not contain 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 ALJ’s decision
is therefore REVERSED and REMANDED, with instructions to further develop
the record as necessary and to reevaluate Bradford’s residual functional capacity.
It is so ordered this 17th day of January, 2017.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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