Myers v. Social Security Administration
ORDER adopting the 21 Recommended Disposition in its entirety. Signed by Judge Kristine G. Baker on 03/02/2016. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
TRACIE D. MYERS
Case No. 4:15-cv-099-KGB
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security Administration,
Before this Court is the Recommended Disposition filed by Magistrate Judge Jerome T.
Kearney (Dkt. No. 21).
Plaintiff Tracie D. Myers filed objections to the Recommended
Disposition (Dkt. No. 24). After reviewing the Recommended Disposition and objections, and
after conducting a de novo review of the record, this Court adopts the Recommended
The Court writes separately to address Ms. Myers’s objections.
Ms. Myers’s first
objection is that Judge Kearney incorrectly concluded that, because her Crohn’s disease was
“treatable,” it cannot be a disabling condition. Ms. Myers contends that there is no medical
opinion that her impairments are controlled on medication and that, even with treatment, she has
flares of Crohn’s disease. Ms. Myers does not dispute that she has failed to take her prescribed
medicines, despite reporting that certain medications improved her symptoms. Even accepting
that there is no medical opinion that her Crohn’s disease is controlled, rather than simply
treatable, there remains substantial evidence to support the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) in this case.
In Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959 (8th Cir. 2010), the Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit affirmed the ALJ’s decision to deny benefits to a woman diagnosed with pancreatitis.
The claimant’s medical records indicated that she suffered from “flares of acute pancreatitis that
occur ‘about monthly.’” Id. at 964. The claimant’s medical records also indicated that she failed
to take her medications as prescribed and was otherwise noncompliant with her treatment
regime. Id. at 965. The claimant’s medical records also indicated that, when she was compliant,
her abdominal pain was “‘under fairly good control.’” Id. Based on these records, the court
concluded that, if an impairment can be controlled by medication, then it cannot be considered
disabling. Id.; see also Romine v. Colvin, 609 F. App’x 880 (8th Cir. 2015) (affirming ALJ’s
denial of supplemental social security income and disability insurance benefits when medical
records indicated that claimant’s psoriatic arthritis was improving but not completely controlled).
The Wildman analysis leads to the conclusion that even medical conditions that are not
completely eliminated or resolved by treatment may fall within the description “controlled.”
Here, Ms. Myers’s medical records reveal that her impairments improved, even if they were not
completely eliminated, with treatment. Her medical records also reveal that Ms. Myers was
noncompliant with recommended treatments. Therefore, this Court rejects Ms. Myers’s assertion
that Judge Kearney erred in concluding that, because her Crohn’s disease is treatable, it is not
Ms. Myers’s second objection is that the ALJ’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
analysis did not take into account his own findings that she had moderate difficulty maintaining
concentration, persistence, or pace. She maintains that light unskilled work is inadequate to
account for moderate difficulties maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, because those
relate to her ability to complete tasks in a timely manner. As it relates to her alleged mental
impairments, the ALJ’s decision explained the impact of his determination regarding Ms.
Myers’s moderate difficulties with concentration, persistence, or pace on the RFC assessment
(SSA R. 15). The ALJ explained that he did not include the alleged mental limitations in the
RFC because these issues did not meet the more detailed assessment standard for limitations
used at steps four and five of the evaluation process (SSA R. 15). Further, the ALJ explained
how Ms. Myers’s alleged disabling mental impairments, and the record evidence, impacted the
RFC (SSA R. 19 ̶ 20).
For example, the ALJ noted among other matters that, according to Ms. Myers’s medical
records, she had no inpatient or mental health treatment from a specialist and had never received
therapy or counseling (SSA R. 21). The ALJ noted that Dr. Hester found that Ms. Myers was
able to cope with the mental demands of basic work tasks, despite her diagnosed mental
conditions (SSA R. 21). The ALJ concluded that the evidence failed to show that her daily
activities were severely restricted due to emotional causes and that, for the relevant period, there
was no significant deficit in her ability to function socially (SSA R.21). See Young v. Apfel, 221
F.3d 1065 (8th Cir. 2000) (fact that claimant was the primary caretaker of her home and two
small children during the relevant time period confirmed her ability to work on a daily basis
despite her claimed mental limitations). Further, in regard to his RFC assessment, the ALJ
concluded that the record did not show any significant level of deficiencies of concentration,
persistence, or pace, or any actual episodes of deterioration or decompensation in work settings
(SSA R. 21).
This Court concludes that the ALJ’s determination of Ms. Myers’s RFC as it pertains to
her alleged mental impairments and the claimed resulting limitations was supported by
substantial record evidence and that the ALJ made no legal error reaching this decision.
Therefore, this Court concludes that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision not to
include limitations in pace, persistence, or concentration explicitly in the hypothetical question
and that the hypothetical question properly stated the limitations that the ALJ found to exist
based on the record evidence.
Ms. Myers’s third objection appears to be that Judge Kearney failed to address her
argument that the ALJ improperly credited testimony from Dr. Ballard and Dr. Thomas over
conflicting testimony from Dr. Nunn.
Her main contention seems to be that Dr. Nunn’s
conclusions do not support the ALJ’s RFC because Dr. Nunn concluded that she could only
stand and/or walk for four hours out of an eight hour workday, which is less than the six hours
required for light work. On this point, the ALJ specifically discussed Dr. Nunn’s four-hour
restriction (SSA R. 22). The ALJ noted that Dr. Nunn previously found Ms. Myers able to sit for
six hours out of an eight hour workday and that there was “nothing to support” his subsequent
limitation to four hours (Id.). It is the function of the ALJ to weigh conflicting evidence and to
resolve disagreements among physicians. Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 709 (8th Cir. 2007). A
treating physician’s opinion does not automatically control, and an ALJ may discount or even
disregard the opinion of a treating physician if a treating physician renders inconsistent opinions.
Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1064 (8th Cir. 2012). Here, the ALJ weighed conflicting
evidence and resolved a disagreement among the physicians as to Ms. Myers’s ability to perform
work at the light exertional level. The ALJ was permitted to discount the portion of Dr. Nunn’s
opinion that was inconsistent. This Court declines to find error on this point.
Ms. Myers’s final objection is that the Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified to entire job
categories rather than the specific jobs identified as available to Ms. Myers and that the ALJ
subsequently erred in relying on that testimony. She contends that Judge Kearney merely recited
the ALJ’s findings on this point. To support her objection, Ms. Myers cites this Court to two
unpublished cases from California, Darling v. Colvin, 2013 WL 4768038 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 4,
2013), and Vanna Hong Vo v. Colvin, 2015 WL 1383138 (C.D. Cal. March 24, 2015).
In Darling, at a post-remand hearing, the VE testified that there were only three jobs that
the claimant (or a hypothetical individual with the claimant’s characteristics) could perform,
specifically (1) packager (DOT § 559.687–074)—total 40,000 positions in California, and
400,000 positions nationwide; (2) inspector (DOT § 727.687–066)—total 47,000 positions in
California, and 434,000 positions nationwide; and (3) assembler (DOT § 731.687–034)—total
20,000 positions in California, and 235,000 positions nationwide. Darling, 2013 WL 4768038,
Subsequently, the claimant submitted a “Job Browser Pro” report for each of the
representative jobs the VE identified. The court noted that the ALJ erred by not addressing the
Job Browser Pro reports, in part, because this new evidence suggested that the job numbers the
VE provided may have pertained to statistical groups rather than individual occupations. Id. at
In Hong Vo, the VE stated that the claimant could perform the jobs of “inspector” and
“assembler,” but the job codes that the VE provided were for “dowel inspector” and “atomizer
assembler.” Hong Vo, 2015 WL 1383138, at *4. The court found that the VE’s testimony was
flawed because it was unclear if the number of jobs the VE identified pertained to those two
specific occupations. Id. In addition, many of the jobs in the general categories identified by the
VE were outside of the claimant’s limitations. Id. at *5.
Here, the VE testified that Ms. Myers could work as an assembly machine tender (DOT
#754.685-014) and small parts packer (DOT #753.687-038). There is no allegation that the VE
failed to provide the correct job codes for those positions. Likewise, there is no allegation that
the numbers the VE provided pertain to statistical groups, rather than to these specific
occupations. This Court concludes that Ms. Myers’s case is distinguishable from Darling and
Hong Vo and that, therefore, these cases are not persuasive.
For the reasons stated above, this Court adopts the Recommended Disposition in its
entirety (Dkt. No. 21). The Court concludes that there is substantial evidence to support the
ALJ’s conclusion denying benefits to Ms. Myers in this case and that the ALJ made no legal
error in reaching this conclusion.
It is so ordered this the 2nd day of March, 2016.
Kristine G. Baker
United States District 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?