George v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Mark E. Ford on July 17, 2015. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
DELBERT L. GEORGE
Civil No. 14-3042
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner
Social Security Administration
Plaintiff, Delbert George, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(hereinafter “the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). In this judicial review, the
court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support
the Commissioner’s decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and SSI on November 30, 2011, and December 6,
2011, respectively. He alleged an onset date of August 2, 2008, due to degenerative disk disease
(“DDD”) of the cervical and lumbar spine, osteoarthritis of the right knee, shoulder pain, numbness
down his legs, myalgias, and depression. Tr. 92, 106, 112, 327-347. The Commissioner denied
his applications initially and on reconsideration. At the Plaintiff’s request, an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) held an administrative hearing on March 14, 2013. Tr. 348-381. Plaintiff was
present and represented by counsel.
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 44 years old and possessed a tenth grade education.
Tr. 92, 351. He had past relevant work (“PRW”) experience as a carpenter and machine operator.
Tr. 93, 356.
On August 28, 2013, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff’s DDD of the cervical and lumbar
spine, osteoarthritis of the right knee, and myalgias were severe, but did not meet or medically
equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. Tr. 15-16. He
determined that the Plaintiff could perform light work involving only occasional climbing,
balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling. Tr. 16. With the assistance of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ found the Plaintiff could perform work as a storage facility clerk, photo
finishing counter clerk, furniture rental clerk, processed film cutter, box corner cutter, and wood
heel beveler. Tr. 19.
The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for review on March 28, 2014. Tr. 38. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. ECF No. 1. This matter is before the undersigned by
consent of the parties. ECF No. 7. Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready
for decision. ECF Nos. 11, 12.
This court’s role is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner’s
findings. Vossen v. Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner’s decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm
the ALJ’s decision if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Blackburn v. Colvin,
761 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2014). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that
supports the Commissioner’s decision, the court may not reverse it simply because substantial
evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because the court
would have decided the case differently. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). In
other words, if after reviewing the record it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the
evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, we must affirm the ALJ’s
A claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents
him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217
(8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines “physical
or mental impairment” as “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or
psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that
his or her disability, not simply their impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.
The Commissioner’s regulations require her to apply a five-step sequential evaluation
process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial
gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or
mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal
an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy
given his or her age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
Only if he reaches the final stage does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff’s age, education, and
work experience in light of his or her residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683
F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C .F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).
On appeal, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ made the following errors: 1) failed to include
his shoulder impairment as a severe impairment; 2) failed to develop the record with regard to his
depression; 3) placed excessive weight on the opinion of Dr. Wilkins, which is contradicted by the
record as a whole including the observations of range of motion restrictions and pain observed by
both emergency room physicians and Dr. Brownfield; and, 4) lacked substantial evidence to
support his determination that the Plaintiff was not disabled.
The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are
presented in the parties’ briefs and the ALJ’s opinion, and are repeated here only to the extent
In his first argument, the Plaintiff contests the ALJ’s determination that his shoulder
impairment was not severe. A severe impairment is an impairment that significantly limits the
individual’s physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
404.1521(b), 416.920(c), 416.921(b); Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-3p, 1996 WL 374181;
Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577 (8th Cir. 2006). Thus, an impairment is not severe if it
amounts only to a slight abnormality that would not significantly limit the claimant’s physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521, 416.921; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 153, 158 (1987) (O'Connor, J., concurring). If the impairment would have no more than
a minimal effect on the claimant’s ability to work, then it does not satisfy the requirement of step
two. Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007). It is the claimant’s burden to establish
that his impairment or combination of impairments are severe. See Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705,
707 (8th Cir. 2007).
A mere diagnosis is not sufficient to prove disability, absent some evidence to establish a
functional loss resulting from that diagnosis. See Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556-557 (8th
Cir. 2011) (although the claimant was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, substantial evidence
supported the ALJ’s finding that depression and anxiety were not severe).
In support of his argument, the Plaintiff cites to a medical record from November 2008 that
mentions chronic shoulder pain. Tr. 183. However, at that time, the doctor noted a medical history
of shoulder pain. The Plaintiff made no active report of shoulder pain. Further, x-rays of his
shoulder conducted in February 2010 showed “mild” degenerative changes in the
acromioclavicular joint, resulting in a diagnosis of degenerative joint disease (“DJD”). See Forte
v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 892, 895 (8th Cir. 2004) (holding that lack of objective medical evidence is
a factor an ALJ may consider).
In January 2012, Plaintiff underwent a general physical exam, which revealed a decreased
range of motion in his shoulders. Tr. 188-192. The doctor assessed moderate limitations with
regard to prolonged positioning, kneeling, stooping, bending, reaching overhead, and lifting.
However, the Plaintiff made no further complaints of shoulder pain until Dr. Andrew Carver
Wilkins conducted a consultative examination in May 2013. Tr. 298-301. Plaintiff then reported
weakness in both arms and occasional numbness in his hands. However, he also indicated that he
had last worked as a roofer in 2012. See Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 793 (8th Cir. 2005)
(absent a showing of deterioration, working after the onset of an impairment is some evidence of
an ability to work). Dr. Wilkins found him able to lift and carry objects without limitations, and
sit, stand, and walk for a full workday.
After reviewing the entire record, the undersigned finds substantial evidence to support the
ALJ’s severity ruling. The evidence makes clear that the Plaintiff’s DJD was mild, treated
conservatively, and inconsistently treated. See Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 967 (8th Cir.
2003) (holding that ALJ may discount disability claimant’s subjective complaints of pain based
on the claimant’s failure to pursue regular medical treatment). As such, we cannot say the ALJ
erred in failing to find it severe.
Duty to Develop the Record:
Plaintiff next contends that the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the record with regard
to his depression. The ALJ owes a duty to a claimant to develop the record fully and fairly to
ensure his decision is an informed decision based on sufficient facts. See Stormo v. Barnhart, 377
F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2004). However, he is not required to function as the claimant’s substitute
counsel, but only to develop a reasonably complete record. Whitman v. Colvin, 762 F.3d 701, 707
(8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Clark v. Shalala, 28 F.3d 828, 830-31 (8th Cir. 1994).
While “[a]n ALJ should recontact a treating or consulting physician if a critical issue is
undeveloped,” “the ALJ is required to order medical examinations and tests only if the medical
records presented to him do not give sufficient medical evidence to determine whether the claimant
is disabled.” Johnson v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 316, 320 (8th Cir. 2010) (quotation, alteration, and
citation omitted). Thus, this court should only remand for further development of the record when
the evidence does not provide an adequate basis for determining the merits of a disability claim.
Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 933 (8th Cir. 2010); Johnson v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 316, 320 (8th
At the outset, we note the Plaintiff did not allege depression on his disability application.
See Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 708 (8th Cir. 2007) (the claimant did not allege a psychiatric
basis for disability in reports completed for the agency); Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th
Cir. 2007) (the claimant did not allege mental impairment in her disability applications completed
for the agency); Dunahoo v. Apfel, 241 F.3d 1033, 1039 (8th Cir. 2001) (the fact that the claimant
did not allege depression in her application was significant). He did testify to being depressed due
to his physical impairments.
However, he sought out no treatment for depression related
symptoms until 2013. In April 2013, he reported poor sleep, fatigue, and decreased energy that
appears to have been related to him caring for his paralyzed wife. Tr. 288-292. Although the
doctor urged him to start an antidepressant, Plaintiff waited 10 days before agreeing to do so. Tr.
277-279. At that time, he was diagnosed with depression/major depression, single episode, and
prescribed Fluoxetine (generic for Prozac). See Trenary v. Bowen, 898F.2d 1361, 1364 (8th Cir.
1990) (a mere diagnosis is not sufficient to prove disability, absent some evidence to establish a
functional loss resulting from that diagnosis). Although Plaintiff reported taking Celexa in July
2013, he sought out no further treatment. See Patrick v. Barnhart, 323 F.3d 592, 596 (8th Cir.
2003) (holding if an impairment can be controlled by treatment or medication, it cannot be
considered disabling). Moreover, he failed to seek out treatment from a mental health professional.
See Kirby, 500 F.3d at709 (lack of formal treatment by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental
health professional is a significant consideration when evaluating Plaintiff’s allegations of
disability due to a mental impairment).
Further, in May 2013, he denied mood changes,
depression, suicidal ideation, nervousness, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Tr. 298-301.
In September 2013, ER doctors treated Plaintiff for sedation secondary to taking seven
Klonopin and drinking tea with “miracle grow” in it. Tr. 317-324. At this time, he denied suicidal
ideations, reporting he read an online article suggesting “miracle grow” was good for him. At that
time, Plaintiff also tested positive for marijuana and admitted using it once or twice per week.
Given the Plaintiff’s lack of consistent treatment for his alleged mental impairment and
failure to seek out formal mental health treatment, the undersigned finds no violation of the ALJ’s
duty to develop the record. The evidence of record is adequate.
The Plaintiff also contends that the ALJ improperly weighed the opinions of the
consultative examiners. Specifically, he alleges that the ALJ erred in according significant weight
to Dr. Wilkin’s opinion, while according less weight to Dr. Brownfield’s opinion. We disagree.
To fully consider and evaluate this issue, we must also evaluate the ALJ’s RFC
determination. RFC is an individual’s ability to do physical and mental work activities on a
sustained basis despite limitations from his impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945. RFC
is a medical question that requires some medical evidence. See Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959,
969 (8th Cir. 2010); Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 803 (8th Cir. 2005); Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945. However, the
ALJ is responsible for assessing a claimant’s RFC. See Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th
Cir. 2007); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1546(c), 416.946(c).
In so doing, the ALJ will consider medical and other evidence of a claimant’s impairments,
including medical opinions. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1513, 404.1527(a)(2), 416.913, 416.927(a)(2); see
also Ellis v. Barnhart, 392 F.3d 988, 994 (8th Cir. 2005) (“although medical source opinions are
considered in assessing RFC, the final determination of RFC is left to the Commissioner). It is
ultimately the ALJ’s function to resolve conflicts among the opinions of various treating and
examining physicians. See Wagner, 499 F.3d at 848. In weighing the medical opinions, the ALJ
considers the following factors: (1) examining relationship; (2) treatment relationship, including
the length of treatment relationship, frequency of examination, and nature and extent of the
treatment relationship; (3) supportability; (4) consistency; (5) specialization; and (6) other factors,
such as the amount of understanding that the physician has regarding the agency’s disability
program and requirements. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(c).
Plaintiff reported being involved in an automobile/bicycle accident at age 9. Tr. 354. As
a result, he suffered a broken right hip and leg. Although there are no records to substantiate his
allegations, Plaintiff claims to have suffered a crush injury to his leg causing the right leg to be
shorter than the left. Tr. 188-192. In 2006, the Plaintiff also reported injuring his shoulders.
Further, he injured his neck at work in May 2008. Tr. 132-141.
On November 2, 2008, the Plaintiff sought treatment in the ER for chronic lower back pain
allegedly resulting from three herniated disks. Tr. 181-186, 234-236. An examination revealed
pain in the spinous process of the paraspinous muscle with muscle spasms in the lower lumbar
region. He reported no radicular symptoms. The ER doctor diagnosed Plaintiff with chronic back
and shoulder pain and administered Toradol and Norflex injections.
On February 24, 2010, fifteen months later, the Plaintiff returned to the ER with recurrent
back and left shoulder pain. Tr. 175-180. He reported no relief from Hydrocodone. Moreover,
he denied radiculopathy, numbness, tingling, and weakness. X-rays of his shoulder revealed mild
degenerative changes in the acromioclavicular joint. Accordingly, the doctor diagnosed him with
chronic back pain and DJD.
On August 2, 2010, Plaintiff presented with complaints of back pain exacerbated by lifting
his wife. Tr. 156-160. His wife had suffered a stroke resulting in paralysis. An examination
revealed a normal range of motion with diffuse, lateral lumbar tenderness. The doctor diagnosed
him with lumbar sprain and prescribed Hydrocodone and Robaxin.
On September 7, 2010, Plaintiff again sought emergent treatment for his lower back pain.
Tr. 143-151. He reported that bending over and standing exacerbated his pain. An examination
revealed some restriction in range of motion of his lower extremities due to pain, diffuse lumbar
tenderness, and sacral tenderness. The doctor prescribed Hydrocodone, but refused to prescribed
pain medication in the future. He recommended the Plaintiff visit his primary care physician or a
On January 24, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a general physical exam with Dr. Shannon
Brownfield. Tr. 188-192. He recounted problems with lower back pain since the 1990s and a
history of scoliosis and herniated disks. Plaintiff also complained of leg pain related to the crush
injury he sustained as a child, as well as pain in his knees and shoulders. An examination exposed
a decreased range of motion in his shoulders, knees, cervical spine, and lumbar spine. And,
although able to squat/arise from a squatting position, this proved painful.
Brownfield found no evidence of muscle spasm or joint deformity, and noted a normal gait and
coordination. He diagnosed lower back pain and bilateral shoulder and knee pain, concluding that
the Plaintiff would be moderately limited with regard to prolonged positioning, kneeling, stooping,
bending, reaching overhead, and lifting.
On September 2, 2012, the Plaintiff presented in the ER due to swelling in his right knee.
Tr. 226-233. He had reportedly jumped off a tress in the past, causing his right knee to buckle.
As a result, his knee was now giving out. He also complained of chronic back pain. On
examination, the doctor noted right knee tenderness, a decreased range of motion due to pain, and
tenderness in the lumbar spine. X-rays of the knee showed chronic-appearing spurring along the
medial femoral condyle and a metallic screw in the tibia about 10 centimeters from the knee joint
level. Further, x-rays of his lumbar spine showed mild degenerative changes at L5-S1 level with
end plate spurring and sclerosis and progression of degenerative disk change at the L5-S1 level.
The doctor diagnosed DJD and knee sprain. He then prescribed Lortab and Naproxen.
On November 25, 2012, Plaintiff returned to the ER with continued complaints of lumbar
pain. Tr. 212-219. Records suggest that his chronic condition was aggravated by a stretching
injury to the right lumbar. He indicated that the pain was primarily on his right side, radiating
down into his hip and leg. The doctor prescribed Norflex.
On December 9, 2012, another episode of back pain sent him back to the ER. Tr. 200-211.
He reported bilateral lumbar flank pain, on the left more than right. He also complained of pain
in the groin with associated nausea and vomiting. An examination revealed no tenderness to the
back, but moderate left lower quadrant abdominal tenderness. The doctor also noted small nonincarcerated inguinal hernias bilaterally. Further, a pelvic CT scan showed a left kidney stone.
However, there are no further records documenting treatment for either the hernias or recurrent
On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff established care at the Boston Mountain Rural Health Center
(“BMRHC”). Tr. 288-292. He complained of lower back pain radiating into his legs, poor sleep,
and decreased energy. Plaintiff reported caring for his paralyzed wife. The doctor diagnosed him
with chronic pain syndrome, lower back pain/lumbago, fatigue, nicotine dependence, depression,
and cervicalgia. He ordered lab tests and an MRI of the lumbar and cervical spine, and prescribed
Flexeril, Mobic, and Norco. The doctor also urged him to start an antidepressant, and the Plaintiff
agreed to “think about it.”
On April 10, 2013, Plaintiff returned to BMRHC. Tr. 280-286. Lab tests revealed elevated
liver functions, so a hepatic function panel and acute hepatitis panel were ordered. The MRI of
his lumbar spine showed edema involving the L5 inferior endplate and superior endplate of the
S1, most likely representing some instability, edema and early modic changes, and mild central
canal stenosis at the L4-5 level secondary to ligamentous hypertrophy facet joint and disk disease.
Results from the cervical MRI revealed central canal and right neural foraminal stenosis at the C56 level and left neural foraminal narrowing at the L4-5 level, but no herniation.
On April 12, 2013, Plaintiff followed up at BMRHC. Tr. 277-279. Based on lab results,
the doctor diagnosed him with chronic hepatitis C, lower back pain with lumbago, chronic pain
syndrome, and depression/major depressive disorder, single episode.
He then prescribed
On April 29, 2013, Plaintiff returned to BMRHC. Tr. 274-276. An examination revealed
a decreased range of motion in his back due to pain. The doctor again diagnosed lower back pain
with lumbago, chronic hepatits C without mention of hepatic coma, and DJD/osteroarthritis. He
directed the Plaintiff to discontinue the Mobic and Norco, prescribing Hydrocodone and refilling
his prescription for Flexeril.
On May 29, 2013, Dr. Andrew Carver Wilkins, performed a consultative examination. Tr.
298-301. Again, the Plaintiff reported a history of lower back and neck pain. He indicated that
activity and head movement exacerbated his neck pain. Further, Plaintiff reported occasional
radiation of the pain to the back of his head, weakness in both of his arms with occasional
numbness in both hands, and constant lower back pain with occasional radiation down the back of
his right leg into his ankle. However, aside from fatigue, Plaintiff reported no problems with
walking and no numbness or sensory issues in his lower extremities. Further, he admitted to being
independent with his activities of daily living, requiring no assistive devices, and smoking
marijuana regularly. Plaintiff also reported last working as a roofer in 2012, after his alleged onset
date. An examination revealed tenderness to palpation in the right trapezius region, but no range
of motion deficits. Dr. Wilkins diagnosed myalgia/myositis. He found the Plaintiff capable of
sitting, walking, and standing for an entire workday and lifting/carrying objects without limitation.
Further, Dr. Wilkins opined that the Plaintiff could hold a conversation, respond appropriately to
questions, and carry out/remember instructions.
Dr. Wilkins also completed an RFC assessment. Tr. 302-304. He found the Plaintiff
unlimited with regard to sitting, standing, walking, lifting, and carrying. However, Dr. Wilkins
limited Plaintiff to work requiring only occasional climbing, balancing, kneeling, crouching, and
On July 11, 2013, Plaintiff returned to the ER, reporting a new diagnosis of hepatitis C and
complaining of right upper quadrant abdominal pain. Tr. 305-314. He indicated that he would be
scheduled to see a gastroenterologist as soon as he was approved for Medicaid. Although he was
unsure how he contracted hepatitis C, the doctor noted multiple tattoos. And, Plaintiff listed
current medications to include Celexa, Flexeril, Hydrocodone, and Vicoprofen. The doctor
concluded that his pain was likely secondary to the stretch of the capsule of his liver. He
recommended a viral load check and possible treatment for hepatitis C.
The doctor also
administered IV fluids, Morphine, Zofran, and Protonix, and released him with orders to increase
his fluid intake.
On September 22, 2013, Plaintiff returned to the ER after taking Klonopin and drinking tea
made with “Miracle Grow.” Tr. 317-324. He had reportedly read an article listing the benefits of
“Miracle Grow.” Interestingly, lab tests were positive for marijuana use, and his family was
concerned that he may have also taken some Flexeril. The Plaintiff, however, denied taking
Flexeril. He also denied suicidal ideations. Therefore, the doctor diagnosed sedation secondary
to Klonopin and perhaps Flexeril. He kept him for observation, and then released him home
As for activities of daily living, the undersigned was unable to locate a function report in
the file. However, the Plaintiff did report caring for his paralyzed wife and performing activities
of daily living without assistance. Further, none of the doctors noted a need for any assistive
devices. The Plaintiff also reported the ability to work as a roofer until at least 2012. This suggests
to the undersigned that his impairments, although severe, are not disabling. See Goff, 421 F.3d at
793 (8th Cir.2005) (absent a showing of deterioration, working after the onset of an impairment is
some evidence of an ability to work).
The ALJ gave some weight to the assessments of Drs. Wilkinson and Brownfield. After
reviewing the entire record in this case, the undersigned finds substantial evidence supporting the
RFC assessment and the weight assigned to the experts by the ALJ.
As previously discussed, the evidence simply does not bear out a severe shoulder
impairment. The mere fact that Dr. Brownfield’s exam revealed some range of motion limitations
in the shoulder does not mandate a finding otherwise. The remainder of the records reveal a normal
range of motion in the shoulders. And, there are no records to indicate that the Plaintiff
consistently reported shoulder pain.
Thus, we do not find that the evidence supports Dr.
Brownfield’s limitation concerning overhead reaching.
However, we do find that Dr. Brownfield’s assessment of moderate lifting and carrying
limitations is supported by substantial evidence. Repeated examinations have revealed tenderness
and range of motion deficits in the cervical and lumbar spine. X-rays and MRIs documenting
degenerative changes and mild central canal and foraminal stenosis in both the lumbar and cervical
spine further validate these limitations. Thus, it appears clear to the undersigned that the Plaintiff,
although limited, is capable of performing light work.
As for Dr. Wilkinson’s assessment of no limitations whatsoever, we do not find it to be
supported by the overall record. However, his conclusion that the Plaintiff is able to sit, stand, and
walk for a full workday is supported by the evidence. And, given that both doctors agreed on the
postural limitations, substantial evidence supports those as well. In accordance, we find substantial
evidence to support the ALJ’s determination that the Plaintiff could perform light work with
postural limitations. Further, we find no error in the weighed assigned to the medical evidence.
Plaintiff’s final argument is a generalized argument that substantial evidence does not
support the ALJ’s disability determination. As addressed above, we find substantial evidence to
support the ALJ’s decision at steps one through four. The last and final step requires the ALJ to
obtain testimony from a vocational expert as to the positions, if any, an individual can perform
given their limitations. The ALJ submitted written interrogatories to a vocational expert who
indicated the Plaintiff could perform work as a coulter and rental clerk, machine operator and
tender, and fast food worker. Tr. 126-127. Because the hypothetical question posed to the
vocational expert included all of the limitations the ALJ found to be supported by the evidence,
the vocational expert’s testimony provides substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s determination
that the Plaintiff is not disabled. Lacroix v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 881, 889 (8th Cir. 2006) (ALJ’s
hypothetical question to the vocational expert needs to include only those impairments that the
ALJ finds are substantially supported by the record as a whole). As such, the ALJ’s decision will
Having carefully reviewed the record, the undersigned finds substantial evidence
supporting the ALJ’s decision denying the Plaintiff benefits, and the decision is affirmed. The
undersigned further orders that the Plaintiff’s Complaint be dismissed with prejudice.
DATED this 17th day of July, 2015.
/s/Mark E. Ford
HONORABLE MARK E. FORD
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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