Yeatman v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER reversing and remanding the case to the Commissioner. This is a "sentence four" remand within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Melkonyan v. Sullivan. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 12/18/2014. (srw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
LISA P. YEATMAN,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner, Social Security
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Lisa Yeatman, appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying her claims for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act. Karl E. Osterhout, Esq., appeared by telephone for Ms. Yeatman. Special Assistant
United States Attorney Una McGeehan appeared by telephone for the Commissioner. The attorneys
are commended for their diligence in this matter. Although a very close call, for reasons set out
below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED.
On August 18, 2011, Ms. Yeatman protectively filed for benefits due to chiari malformation,
chronic migraines, spinal arthritis, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, muscle pain and inflamation,
nerve disorders, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. 159) Ms. Yeatman’s claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. At Ms. Yeatman’s request, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
held a hearing on November 5, 2012, where Ms. Yeatman appeared with her lawyer. At the hearing,
the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Yeatman, a medical expert, and a vocational expert (“VE”). (Tr.
35-65) The ALJ issued a decision on November 19, 2012, finding that Ms. Yeatman was not
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 17-28) The Appeals Council denied Ms. Yeatman’s request for review,
making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. (Tr. 1-3)
Ms. Yeatman, who was forty-nine years old at the time of the hearing, has a high school
education and past relevant work as a ticket agent, baggage handler, and tool-crib attendant. (Tr. 39,
DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE1
The ALJ found that Ms. Yeatman had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
August 4, 2010, and she had the following severe impairments: hypothyroidism, migraines, mild
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, post-surgery to release chiari malformation, carpal
tunnel syndrome of the right hand, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 19) However, the ALJ found that
Ms. Yeatman 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 1.2 (Tr. 19)
According to the ALJ, Ms. Yeatman has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to do the
full range of light work, except that she can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; can occasionally perform bilateral overhead reaching; can understand, remember and
carry out simply instructions; and is limited to only occasional interaction with supervisors,
coworkers, and the public. (Tr. 21) The VE testified that the jobs available with these limitations
were cleaner/housekeeper, garment sorter, and garment bagger. (Tr. 61-62) Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Yeatman could perform a significant number of jobs existing in the national
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, and 404.1526.
economy, and found that she was not disabled.
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.3 Substantial evidence is “less
than a preponderance, but sufficient for reasonable minds to find it adequate to support the
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.”5
Ms. Yeatman’s Argument for Reversal
Ms. Yeatman asserts that the Commissioner’s decision should be reversed because the ALJ
(1) failed to consider her migraines under Listing 11.03; and (2) failed to account for the migraines
in the RFC finding. (Doc. No. 11) The Court agrees.
Ms. Yeatman asserts that the ALJ should have considered whether her migraines met Listing
11.03, which reads:
11.03 Epilepsy—nonconvulsive epilepsy (petit mal, psychomotor, or focal),
documented by detailed description of a typical seizure pattern, including all
associated phenomena; occurring more frequently than once weekly in spite of at
least 3 months of prescribed treatment. With alteration of awareness or loss of
consciousness and transient postictal manifestations of unconventional behavior or
significant interference with activity during the day.6
Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Id. (citing Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)).
Id. (citing Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006)).
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, § 11.03.
To meet or equal a listing, Ms. Yeatman must prove that she met all of the specific medical
criteria.7 The ALJ did generally state she considered Listing 11.00, but, as Plaintiff argues, failed to
live up to her promise of specifically addressing this listing. (Tr. 20.)
And, while thorough in most all other respects, the ALJ failed to adequately address
Plaintiff’s evidence of debilitating migraine headaches. At the administrative hearing a medical
expert was present, but neither side asked him to opine about the impact of Plaintiff’s welldocumented history of migraines. Granted it was Plaintiff’s burden to prove disability, the ALJ also
had the duty to fully develop the record.
There is ample evidence showing Plaintiff’s ability to function is impacted by her migraine
headaches. The ALJ acknowledged this evidence and concluded that this impairment was
considered to be “severe.” But the ALJ did not really address her migraines when formulating her
RFC. Although the Commissioner’s counsel argues this is a de minimis finding, by definition a
“severe” impairment significantly limits one’s ability to perform basic work activities. So, as
Plaintiff’s counsel correctly points out, there is “tension” arising from the ALJ’s decision. This
tension must be resolved through further analysis of the impact of Plaintiff’s migraines on her RFC.
The Court recognizes the Commissioner’s argument that, while complaining of migraine
headaches, Plaintiff was capable of performing her job at an airline. This is a strong point for the
Commissioner. Especially given the fact that disabling migraine headaches would likely result in
excessive absenteeism from work. However, Plaintiff argues her migraines have increased in
severity since she left her job. While the ALJ discounted this argument (Tr. 23), the medical records
from Plaintiff’s neurologist provide support for this contention. Her neurology records also show
her medications are not always effective and she testified they make her sleepy. And given
Marciniak v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 1350, 1353 (8th Cir. 1995).
Plaintiff’s strong work history (Tr. 123-130, 135-141, 150-157), as well as the fact she left her job
because of health issues (Tr. 40-41), the Court believes her credibility on this point must be
A reasonable mind would not accept the evidence as adequate to support the ALJ’s decision
because the decision does not sufficiently address Ms. Yeatman’s migraine headaches. For this
reason, Court REVERSES the decision and REMANDS the case to the Commissioner for full
development of limitations posed by Plaintiff’s migraine headaches.
This is a “Sentence Four” remand within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Melkonyan
v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991).
IT IS SO ORDERED this 18th day of December, 2014.
JOE J. VOLPE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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