Beasley v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the final decision of the Commissioner, and dismissing Beasley's Complaint, with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 11/30/2017. (kdr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JERRY WAYNE BEASLEY
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Social Security Administration
Plaintiff, Jerry Wayne Beasley, applied for supplemental security income
benefits on September 21, 2011, alleging his disability began on May 28, 2007. (Tr.
at 98). His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After
conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ@) denied Beasley’s
application. (Tr. at 109). Thereafter, the Appeals Council remanded the case for
another hearing. (Tr. at 114).
After conducting a second hearing, on December 9, 2014 (Tr. at 49) and May
27, 2015 (Tr. at 72), the ALJ denied Beasley’s application, and that decision (Tr. at
25) now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Beasley has requested
For the reasons stated below, the Court 1 affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner=s Decision:
The ALJ found that Beasley had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the application date of September 21, 2011 (Tr. at 13). At Step Two, the ALJ
found that Beasley has the following severe impairments: frozen left shoulder, back
pain, coronary artery disease, history of aortic regurgitation and moderate to severe
aortic insufficiency (post-operative valve replacement), hypertension, and
After finding that Beasley’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed
impairment (Tr. at 13), the ALJ determined that Beasley has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work, except that: (1) he can only
do occasional pushing and pulling with his non-dominant arm; (2) he is limited to
work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed and the
complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, contains few variables, and
requires little judgment; and (3) the supervision required is simple, direct, and
concrete. (Tr. at 16).
Because the ALJ found that Beasley had no past relevant work (Tr. at 24), the
The parties have consented in writing to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge.
ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on
Beasley’s age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that he could perform, including work as a cashier
II, office helper, and marking clerk. (Tr. at 25). Accordingly, the ALJ held that
Beasley was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
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). While Asubstantial evidence@ is that which a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, Asubstantial evidence on the
record as a whole@ requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:
A[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the
existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner=s
decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from that decision.@ Reversal is not warranted, however,
Amerely because substantial evidence would have supported an
Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
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.
Beasley=s Arguments on Appeal
Beasley argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ=s decision
to deny benefits. He contends that: (1) the ALJ erred in determining his RFC because
he did not fully credit the opinions of Beasley’s treating physicians; and (2) the ALJ
erred in asking the VE an improper hypothetical question.2
Beasley suffered from aortic regurgitation in May 2014. (Tr. at 621). Dr.
Michael Nolen, M.D., a cardiologist, performed an aortic valve replacement on June
2, 2014. (Tr. at 656). The surgery went well: Beasley had a normal post-op chest xray and a normal post-op exam after the surgery. (Tr. at 658-659). A clinic note from
June 20, 2014 indicates he could start progressive walking as tolerated. (Tr. at 697).
At visits on June 24, 2014 and December 2, 2014, Beasley showed a normal heart
rate and rhythm with no murmurs. (Tr. at 688, 690). Beasley appeared in no acute
distress and was well-nourished and well-developed at those appointments. Id.
Objective tests showing mild to moderate conditions do not support a finding of
While Beasley suffers from mental impairments that limit him to unskilled work, he did not
address mental impairments in his brief. Accordingly, there is no reason to address that issue.
disability. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th Cir. 2004). (Tr. at 688690). Beasley did not report for follow-up after 2014. Smith v. Shalala, 987 F.2d
1371, 1374 (8th Cir. 1993) (when a claimant has not treated his anxiety, the ALJ is
justified in ruling out anxiety as an impairment). With respect to Beasley’s heart
condition, the record does not reflect an impairment that would result in disabling
Beasley also raises left shoulder pain as grounds for a finding of disability. He
complained of left shoulder pain, but did not have an MRI, did not undertake
physical therapy, did not see a pain specialist, and did not seek surgical intervention.
The need for only conservative treatment contradicts allegations of disabling pain.
Id. Left shoulder x-rays in 2010 and 2011 revealed mild spurring but no dislocation
or fracture. (Tr. at 485, 530). In May 2014, Beasley showed normal motor strength
in upper and lower extremities with an intact sensory exam. (Tr. at 621).
Furthermore, at the hearing, Beasley said he once had a “frozen shoulder,” but “not
now.” (Tr. at 83). Thus, his shoulder problem appears to have resolved.
This improvement is borne out by Beasley’s daily activities. He indicated on
a function report that he could prepare meals daily, get outside every day, walk, ride
in a car, shop in stores for groceries, and spend time with others. (Tr. at 344-346).
Such daily activities undermine his claims of disability. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314
F.3d 964, 967 (8th Cir. 2003); Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484, 487 (8th Cir. 1995).
In spite of the foregoing medical evidence supporting the ALJ’s finding,
Beasley asserts that his treating doctors’ opinions provide for an opposite result. It
is the ALJ’s function to review all of the medical evidence and resolve conflicts
among the various treating and examining physicians. Wagner v. Astrue, 499 F.3d
842, 848 (8th Cir. 2007); Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1219 (8th Cir.
2001). A treating physician’s opinion must be discussed by the ALJ and, if rejected,
reasons are necessary. Ingram v. Charter, 107 F. 3d 598, 602 (8th Cir. 1997); Prince
v. Bowen, 894 F.2d 283 (8th Cir. 1990). A treating physician’s opinion should be
granted controlling weight if it is supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial
evidence in the record. Miller, 784 F.3d at 477.
Beasley points to a medical source statement from Dr. Ivy McGhee, M.D.,
whom he visited on only two occasions. (Tr. at 554-555). After his first visit on
February 7, 2012, Dr. McGhee completed the medical source statement, without
administering any clinical testing. In this statement, she checked boxes indicating
that Beasley could not even perform sedentary work, without any reference to any
objective testing or clinical exams. Id. A conclusory checkbox form has little
evidentiary value when it cites to no medical evidence and provides no elaboration.
Anderson v. Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 794 (8th Cir. 2012). Finally, the statement was
issued two years before the cardiac complaints and aortic valve surgery that Beasley
relies upon for his disability claim. When Dr. McGhee did write a letter, in February
2013, she noted that medication and medical visit compliance was a major issue. (Tr.
at 613-614). A claimant’s non-compliance with treatment is a legitimate
consideration in evaluating the validity of his alleged disability. See Holley v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1088, 1092 (8th Cir. 2001). Dr. McGhee did not place any
functional restrictions on Beasley. A lack of physician-imposed restrictions may
serve as a reason to discredit a claimant’s credibility. Hensley v. Barnhart, 352 F.3d
353, 357 (8th Cir. 2003). Finally, Dr. McGhee’s statement seemed to rely heavily
on subjective statements from Beasley, as she did not reference clinical objective
evidence to support her opinion. An ALJ is entitled to give less weight to the opinion
of a treating physician where the physician’s opinion is based largely on the
claimant’s subjective complaints rather than on objective medical evidence. See
Vandenboom v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 745, 749 (8th Cir. 2005). The ALJ properly
evaluated Dr. McGhee’s opinion.
Beasley also relies upon the statements of Dr. Michael Nolen, M.D., the
cardiologist who performed aortic valve replacement on June 2, 2014. (Tr. at 656).
Beasley had a normal post-op chest x-ray and a normal post-op exam after the
surgery. (Tr. at 658-659). Nevertheless, Dr. Nolen issued a long-term disability
status report the day after surgery, which suggested Beasley was virtually
incapacitated. (Tr. at 632). Dr. Nolen said Beasley could do no walking, sitting, or
standing, and could not lift or drive. Id. This contradicts the clinic note from June
20, 2014 that says he should start progressive walking as tolerated. (Tr. at 697). And
as detailed above, in office examinations on June 24, 2014 and December 2, 2014,
Beasley showed a normal heart rate and rhythm with no murmurs. (Tr. at 688, 690).
Furthermore, Beasley did not report for follow-up after 2014. Thus, the Court
concludes that Dr. Nolen’s opinion was not reflective of Beasley’s post-operative
The non-examining state agency medical consultants’ opinions were more in
line with the mild objective evidence. They each assigned a light RFC with limited
pushing and pulling in the left upper extremity. (Tr. at 543, 463).
The ALJ properly discredited the opinions of Beasley’s treating doctors,
which did not find support in the record. Weighing the opinions and objective
evidence, the ALJ formulated a proper hypothetical, which included all of Beasley’s
limitations. A hypothetical question is properly formulated if it sets forth
impairments “supported by substantial evidence in the record and accepted as true
by the ALJ.” Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 804 (8th Cir. 2005). The RFC
likewise contemplated all of the objective evidence: the sporadic and conservative
treatment, mild objective testing results, improvement post-surgery, and consistent
opinions of the state doctors all supported the RFC for light work.
There is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner=s decision to deny
benefits. The ALJ properly evaluated the opinions of Beasley’s treating physicians
and incorporated all of his limitations in both the hypothetical and the RFC.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the final decision of the Commissioner
is AFFIRMED, and Beasley’s Complaint is DISMISSED, with prejudice.
DATED this 30th day of November, 2017.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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