Scott v. Social Security Administration
RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. Objections due within 14 days of this Recommendation. Signed by Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris on 11/1/2017. (ljb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
LITTLE ROCK DIVISION
JOHNNY E. SCOTT
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Social Security Administration
The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to
United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or
part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically
explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk
of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you
may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.
REASONING FOR RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
Johnny Scott applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged
disability onset date of March 31, 2006. (R. at 109). After a hearing, the administrative
law judge (ALJ) denied his applications. (R. at 50–51). The Appeals Council denied
Scott’s request for review. (R. at 1). The ALJ’s decision now stands as the
Commissioner’s final decision, and Scott has requested judicial review.
For the reasons stated below, the magistrate judge recommends affirming the
The Commissioner’s Decision
The ALJ found that Scott was insured under the Social Security Act through
March 31, 2006. (R. at 42). The ALJ found that Scott had the severe impairment of
degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine prior to the date last insured and that,
since the application date, he had the severe impairments of degenerative disk disease of
the lumbar spine and degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder. (R. at 42). The
ALJ determined that, prior to the date last insured, Scott had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work, except that he could not climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; could only occasionally climb ramps or stairs, kneel, crawl, crouch, stoop, or
balance. (R. at 44). The ALJ found that, after the application date, Scott had the RFC to
perform light work, except that he could not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; could
occasionally climb ramps or stairs; could occasionally perform all other postural
activities and could never reach overhead with the right upper extremity. (R. at 44).
Scott had no past relevant work. (R. at 49).The ALJ found, with vocational expert (VE)
testimony, that Scott could perform jobs such as ticket taker or agricultural produce
sorter. (R. at 50). The ALJ therefore held that Collison was not disabled. (R. at 50–51).
Summary of Medical Evidence
Scott complained of lower back pain on April 11, 2006, but stated that Tramadol
helped with his pain. (R. at 1489). He again complained of intermittent back pain and
left leg numbness on October 5, 2006, when his pain was noted as stable and he was
advised to reduce his cyclobenzaprine. (R.at 1477–79). On March 3, 2010, Scott told his
doctor that he managed his pain with muscle relaxers, alcohol, and cannabis. (R. at
An x-ray on September 14, 2010 showed narrowing of the facet joints at L4–L5,
hypertrophic changes of the facets at L5–S1, and first-degree spondylolisthesis of L5 on
S1. (R. at 393). A May 21, 2012 MRI revealed degenerative changes most significant at
L5–S1 and possible left spondylosis. (R. at 389).
In August 2013, Scott suffered alcohol withdrawal seizures that resulted in a right
proximal humeral fracture. (R. at 474–75). MRI and EEG were negative. (R. at 475). The
seizures were noted as resolved on September 12, 2013. (R. at 632). The seizures
resulted in a fracture that was repaired with a right shoulder hemiarthroplasty on
August 30, 2013. (R. at 879–80). He stated that he was not having much pain in the
shoulder on September 17, 2013. (R. at 613). He reported improvement and decreased
pain on September 25, 2013. (R. at 484).
Scott presented for a consultative examination on November 23, 2013, where
Adam Dooley, M.D. found that he could rise from a sitting position without assistance
and bend and squat without difficulty. (R. at 1545). Dr. Dooley found that Scott had 5/5
grip strength and that his right shoulder wound was healing well following the
hemiarthroplasty. (R. at 1545–46). Scott had reduced right shoulder range of motion.
(R. at 1547). Dr. Dooley found that Scott could not engage in prolonged standing or
walking and could not carry more than 10 pounds with his right arm. (R. at 1546).
On November 5, 2014, Scott reported pain and restricted range of motion in his
right shoulder, with pain being the bigger issue. (R. at 1811). He had significantly
reduced range of motion on examination, and it was noted that his only option would be
a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. (R. at 1812). Scott underwent the revision surgery
on June 8, 2015. (R. at 2047–49). A September 23, 2015 x-ray found a stable reverse
total shoulder arthroplasty. (R. at 1860). Scott reported that he was doing fine except for
occasional pain in the morning. (R. at 1915). He had 90 degree active forward elevation
and 30 degree active external rotation with internal rotation up to L5 with 5/5 deltoid
strength. (R. at 1915–16). His occupational therapist noted on September 9, 2015 that he
should not lift weights exceeding articles of clothing, robes, bath towels, and other such
items and that he had a lifetime load limit of no greater than 25 pounds. (R. at 1917).
She noted improved range of motion on October 8, 2015. (R. at 2508).
The Court reviews to determine whether substantial evidence on the record as a
whole exists to support the ALJ’s denial of benefits. Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187
(8th Cir. 1997). “Substantial evidence” exists where a reasonable mind would find the
evidence adequate to support the ALJ’s decision. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925
(8th Cir. 2009). The Court will not reverse merely because substantial evidence also
supports a contrary conclusion. Long, 108 F.3d at 187.
Scott argues that the ALJ failed to consider his seizure disorder and did not
consider his impairments in combination. He also contends that new evidence
presented to the Appeals Council warrants reversal, that the medical evidence does not
support the RFC finding, and that the ALJ failed to perform a proper credibility
a. Seizure Disorder
Scott first argues that he has a seizure disorder that the ALJ failed to account for.
He argues that the after-effects of seizures would prevent him from engaging in work
activity and that the alleged seizure disorder would require him to avoid hazards such as
moving machinery, unprotected heights, and others.
The undersigned cannot agree. It is indisputable that the medical records show
Scott experienced seizures. However, records also clearly show that these seizures were
the result of alcohol withdrawal. (R. at 474–75). Furthermore, medical records state that
the seizures have resolved. (R. at 632). There is no record of a seizure occurring after
August 2013. The ALJ concluded that Scott’s seizures do not significantly limit his
ability to perform basic work activities. (R. at 43). There is substantial evidence on the
record as a whole to support this determination.
b. Impairments in Combination
Scott also contends that the ALJ failed to consider his impairments in
combination. Scott points out that he has been diagnosed with rhinitis, dermatitis,
acidosis, anxiety, trochanteric bursitis, and other conditions. (R. at 525–26).
The ALJ discussed Scott’s impairments, both severe and non-severe. (R. at 42–
43). Furthermore, there is nothing in the medical records indicating that the additional
impairments that Scott alleges further limited his ability to work. Aside from simply
listing the additional impairments, Scott makes no argument as to how the impairments
limit him and cites no evidence to support his contention of additional limitations.
Simple diagnoses, standing alone, do not establish disability. See, e.g., Jones v. Astrue,
619 F.3d 963, 972 (8th Cir. 2010) (recognizing that a diagnosis does not per se establish
c. New Evidence
Scott also contends that additional records presented to the Appeals Council
require remand. Scott does not develop this argument beyond stating that the records
are almost 500 pages in length and “clearly are significant evidence.”
To support remand, additional evidence must be new and material. Bergmann v.
Apfel, 207 F.3d 1065, 1069–70 (8th Cir. 2000). In order to be considered “new,” the
evidence cannot simply be cumulative. Id. To be “material,” the evidence must concern
conditions present prior to the ALJ’s decision, not later acquired conditions or
subsequently worsening conditions. Id.
A review of the records in question shows that they contain little to no new
information. In fact, some of the new records show improvement. (R. at 2508). As the
records are merely cumulative, they do not warrant remand.
d. Support for RFC
Scott further argues that the ALJ did not account for his complaints of pain in the
RFC and that the medical opinions do not support an RFC for light work.
As far as Scott’s limitations based on pain are concerned, the ALJ limited him to
no overhead reaching with his right arm and found several postural limitations that
account for pain. (R. at 44). Additionally, Scott has failed to produce or point to any
evidence that suggests that his pain is more limiting than what the ALJ found.
Scott also observes that Adam Dooley, M.D. opined that he could lift no more
than 10 pounds with his right arm on November 23, 2013. (R. at 1546). However, this
opinion came shortly after Scott’s hemiarthroplasty. Significantly, Scott’s occupational
therapist noted that he had a lifetime lifting limitation of 25 pounds. (R. at 1917). Such a
lifting limitation would be consistent with the RFC for light work. Substantial evidence
on the record as a whole supports an RFC for light work.
e. The Credibility Determination
Finally, Scott argues that the ALJ failed to perform a proper credibility analysis
by failing to consider his strong work record, the consistency of his pain allegations with
the medical evidence, the side effects of his medication, and the potential distraction
caused by his pain.
The Court defers to the ALJ’s credibility determination when it is supported by
good reason and substantial evidence. Turpin v. Colvin, 750 F.3d 989, 993 (8th Cir.
2014). The ALJ must consider “(1) the claimant's daily activities; (2) the duration and
intensity of the pain; (3) the precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) dosage,
effectiveness and side effects of medication; (5) functional restrictions.” Miller v.
Sullivan, 953 F.2d 417, 420 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320,
1322 (8th Cir. 1984). The ALJ need not specifically address each factor. Strongson v.
Barnhart, 361 F.3d 1066, 1072 (8th Cir. 2004).
The ALJ set forth reasons for finding Scott to not be entirely credible, including
his daily activities and the consistency of his claims of limitations with the medical
evidence. (R. at 45). Scott argues that he has a strong work record that supports his
credibility, but the record is clearly at odds with that assertion. The record shows that
Scott has had no employment since 2002, despite alleging disability since only 2006. (R.
at 219). Moreover, his employment since 1991 has been limited. (R. at 219). Rather than
bolstering his credibility, his work record weighs against his credibility and suggests a
lack of motivation to work.
Concerning his allegations of pain, the ALJ accounted for pain in the RFC. Scott
has not shown that his pain is disabling, and the record simply does not reflect such
limitations due to pain. Similarly, though Scott contends that his pain affects his ability
to concentrate, he has shown no evidence of a decreased ability to concentrate.
Finally, Scott maintains that the ALJ failed to account for the side effects of his
medication. Scott points to a single page in the record to support this claim, which states
“[h]e does not take much pain medication because he does not like the way they make
him feel.” (R. at 613). This single vague statement does not demonstrate that Scott
experiences side effects from medication that would prevent him from working.
The ALJ’s credibility determination is supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole.
The ALJ considered all of Scott’s impairments, properly formulated the RFC,
properly weighed the opinion evidence, and performed a proper credibility analysis. The
additional evidence in the record is merely cumulative and does not support remand.
The ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and is
not based on legal error. For these reasons, the undersigned magistrate judge
recommends AFFIRMING the decision of the Commissioner.
It is so ordered this 1st day of November, 2017.
PATRICIA S. HARRIS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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