Estridge v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Erin L. Setser on April 25, 2012. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SCOTTY BOB ESTRIDGE
CIVIL NO. 11-5064
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner
Social Security Administration
Plaintiff, Scotty Bob Estridge, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking
judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act (Act). 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 protectively filed his current applications for DIB and SSI on October 2, 2007,
alleging an inability to work since May 31, 2007, due to herniated discs at three levels. (Tr. 116119, 121-123, 130). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through June 30,
2008. (Tr. 52, 103). An administrative hearing was held on May 29, 2009, at which Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 6-44).
By written decision dated October 14, 2009, the ALJ found that during the relevant time
period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 54).
Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairment: degenerative disc
disease of the lumber spine. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, she
determined that Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any
impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No.
4. (Tr. 56). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform less than the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). The claimant can only occasionally perform
postural activities. He can not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He would need
to be able to stand and stretch in place before returning to seated position on an
(Tr. 56). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform work
as an interviewer/charge account clerk and an assembler. (Tr. 60).
Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied that request on January 11, 2011. (Tr. 1-3). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action.
(Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6).
Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 8,9).
At the time of the administrative hearing held before the ALJ on May 29, 2009, Plaintiff
was thirty-five years of age and testified that he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree. (Tr. 10). The
record reflects Plaintiff’s work consists of work as a groundskeeper, a cashier/checker, and a
parking officer. (Tr. 36-40).
The medical evidence during the relevant time period reflects the following. On
September 4, 2007, Plaintiff entered the Siloam Springs Memorial Hospital emergency room
complaining of low back pain since 1992. (Tr. 190-193). Plaintiff indicated he was not taking
any medication. Plaintiff’s past medical history consisted of questionable asthma. Plaintiff
reported that he wanted to go to St. Francis Clinic.
On September 5, 2007, Plaintiff entered the Washington Regional Medical Center
emergency room complaining of sharp, radiating low back pain. (Tr. 207-216, 244-248).
Plaintiff also reported pain and tingling in his left leg. Plaintiff reported that his pain began three
weeks prior to the emergency room visit, after he picked up a computer monitor. Dr. Steven
Spencer diagnosed Plaintiff with sciatica, and prescribed twenty Diazepam and twenty Lortab
pills. Plaintiff was instructed to perform activity as tolerated.
On September 17, 2007, Plaintiff entered the Washington Regional Medical Center
emergency room complaining of back pain. (Tr. 201-206, 239-243). Treatment notes indicated
Plaintiff was treated for back pain in the emergency room one and one-half weeks ago. Plaintiff
reported he received a Cortizone shot and that the pain “got better” for a few days, but the pain
had returned. Plaintiff reported he ran out of pain medication the previous day. Plaintiff
reported his pain was exacerbated by movement. Upon examination, Dr. Spencer noted
Plaintiff’s back was normal to inspection without CVA tenderness. Plaintiff was noted to have
normal range of motion of the lower extremity with no calf tenderness. Plaintiff had a positive
straight leg test on the left. Plaintiff’s gait and motor exam were normal. Dr. Spencer diagnosed
Plaintiff with sciatica. Plaintiff was instructed to return after his MRI to receive the results.
On September 20, 2007, Plaintiff entered the Washington Regional Medical Center
emergency room complaining of low back and left leg pain. (Tr. 194-200, 233-238). Plaintiff
reported experiencing this pain for the past twenty-one days. Plaintiff reported that he was in
for test results from a previous MRI. (Tr. 195). Upon examination, Plaintiff was noted to be
alert and oriented times three with normal insight and concentration. Plaintiff underwent a MRI
of the lumbar spine that revealed:
1. Severe canal stenosis L4-L5 due to a focal herniated disc extending
approximately 12 mm into the spinal canal slightly left of midline.
2. Diffuse bulge and ligamentous hypertrophy at L3-4 and no significant canal or
neural foraminal narrowing.
(Tr. 200). Plaintiff was referred to neurosurgery.
On November 13, 2007, Plaintiff was seen at Northwest Arkansas Neurosurgery Clinic
complaining of herniated discs. (Tr. 188). Plaintiff complained of lower back pain since May
31, 2007, when he lifted trusses at work. Plaintiff’s medication consisted of Ibuprofen. Plaintiff
reported that his pain had progressively worsened over the previous three and one-half months.
Plaintiff reported he received a steroid injection in September of 2007 that “helped some.”
On December 20, 2007, Dr. David L. Hicks, a non-examining medical consultant,
completed a RFC assessment stating that Plaintiff could occasionally lift or carry twenty pounds,
frequently ten pounds; could stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour
workday; could sit for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and could push or pull
unlimited, other than as shown for lift and/or carry. (Tr. 222-229). Dr. Hicks opined Plaintiff
could occasionally climb, balance, stoop and crouch, but could never kneel or crawl. Dr. Hicks
noted that manipulative, visual, communicative or environmental limitations were not evident.
Dr. Hicks made the following additional comments:
33 yo alleges herniated disc at 3 levels. DLI 6/07. MER indicates c/o low back
pain with tingling and numbness left lower extremity since 5/07. 9/07 exam notes
positive SLR, normal ROM lumbar spine, normal gait, normal sensation, DTRs
normal. MRI shows severe canal stenosis secondary to L4-5 DDD, diffuse bulge
and ligamentous hypertrophy at L3-4. ADLs note takes care of son, cooks,
mows, does laundry, trash, drives, shops, trouble with physical exertion and can
walk 40-50 feet with support.
Owing to MDI of lumbar DDD without loss of neuromuscular function, and
considering ADLs, RFC is light with postural restrictions.
(Tr. 229). On February 14, 2008, after reviewing additional medical records, Dr. Jim Takach
affirmed Dr. Hicks’ December 20, 2007 assessment. (Tr. 232).
On November 18, 2008, Plaintiff was seen at the St. Francis Clinic complaining of tooth
pain on both sides of his mouth. (Tr. 266). Vicki H. Moore, APN, noted Plaintiff had been
referred by Dr. Holcomb’s office after he had walked into Dr. Holcomb’s office the previous day.
Plaintiff reported that he had experienced dental pain for months. Nurse Moore noted Plaintiff
also seemed to have some emotional issues. Upon examination, Plaintiff was noted to be in no
acute distress. Plaintiff was diagnosed with dental pain. Plaintiff was given a voucher to see Dr.
Holcomb and was told that Plaintiff should get a counseling appointment for mental concerns.
Plaintiff was to return to the clinic to have his blood pressure checked the following week.
Nurse Moore noted that if Plaintiff’s blood pressure was still elevated, medication might be
A Clinic Note from St. Francis House dated November 20, 2008, reported that Dr.
Holcomb was unable to extract Plaintiff’s tooth, and that Plaintiff would need to see an oral
surgeon. (Tr. 267). Nurse Moore noted that the clinic did not have a referral for an oral surgeon,
but that she would call Plaintiff with the information for the Fayetteville Free Health Clinic.
On February 19, 2009, Plaintiff underwent a consultative general physical examination
performed by Dr. C.R. Magness. (Tr. 250-255). Plaintiff complained of back pain that radiated
into his right lower extremity and migraine headaches. Upon examination, Dr. Magness noted
Plaintiff had full range of motion in his shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, and the
cervical spine. Dr. Magness noted Plaintiff had zero range of motion of the lumbar spine and
that Plaintiff was unable to do the straight-leg raises due to back pain. Dr. Magness noted
Plaintiff had limited dorsiflexion and plantar flexion of the left ankle, and no range of motion
of the right ankle. Dr. Magness noted Plaintiff had muscle weakness of the left lower extremity
and Plaintiff’s gait was noted as “abnormal.” A limb function examination revealed Plaintiff
was able to hold a pen and write; able to touch fingertips to palms; able to grip fifty percent of
normal on the right, thirty percent on the left; able to oppose thumb to fingers; and able to pick
up a coin. Dr. Magness noted Plaintiff was unable to walk without an assistive device; unable
to walk on heel and toes; and unable to squat and arise from a squatting position. Dr. Magness
diagnosed Plaintiff with bi-level degenerative disc disease, right lower extremity radiculopathy,
asthma, migraine headaches, an antisocial personality disorder, and depression with questionable
bipolar disorder. Dr. Magness opined Plaintiff had severe limitations with walking, lifting,
carrying and sitting.
On March 23, 2009, Plaintiff underwent a mental status and psychological evaluation
performed by Dr. Patricia J. Walz. (Tr. 258-). Dr. Walz noted Plaintiff drove to the evaluation
“under the supervision” of his wife. Plaintiff reported that he was easily upset and that his wife
thought he might be bipolar. Plaintiff reported he filed for disability due to his three herniated
discs. Plaintiff also reported pain and numbness in his right leg if he stood too long. With
regard to mental issues, Plaintiff reported that he had anxiety problems all of the time and that
he was irritable. Plaintiff reported experiencing anxiety attacks when he was around people.
Plaintiff reported that he earned his GED and then a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Plaintiff reported he never was hired by a school because they thought he was too “laid back and
not the type that should be teaching kids.” When asked about his health, Plaintiff reported he
had back pain, pain in his legs, and chronic asthma. Plaintiff reported he went to the free clinic
and was told he needed to be placed on blood pressure medication, but he did not go back to the
clinic. Plaintiff’s medications at the time of the evaluation consisted of Ibuprofen and an inhaler,
which he did not use. Plaintiff reported that he did not do chores due to his back pain, but he
was able to cook. Dr. Walz noted that while Plaintiff reported experiencing anxiety at Wal-Mart,
Plaintiff appeared to go to Wal-Mart fairly regularly. Dr. Walz diagnosed Plaintiff with an
anxiety disorder, and a passive aggressive and dependent personality disorder. Dr. Walz opined
Plaintiff’s GAF score was 60 to 65.
With regard to Plaintiff’s adaptive functioning, Dr. Walz noted Plaintiff was able to
drive; to shop independently, although he sometimes forgot what he needed; to go to church
weekly and to sit through the one hour service, but had to twist and turn; to play internet games;
and to watch movies or cartoons with his children. Dr. Walz noted Plaintiff’s social skills were
impaired in that Plaintiff was passive aggressive. Dr. Walz opined Plaintiff’s intellectual
functioning was in the low average range. Dr. Walz noted Plaintiff was able to sustain attention
on tasks. Plaintiff was noted to persist well although he frequently gave excuses and claimed he
could not understand things. Plaintiff’s processing speed was noted to be average. With regard
to validity Dr. Walz stated as follows:
The Computer Assessment of Response Bias was administered. He gave
extremely poor effort on the test. His effort was far below individuals who have
sustained severe brain injuries and was in fact within the range of random
responding. The summary states, “A three year old child who was simply
pressing keys randomly could easily obtain such a performance. Individuals who
are attempting to simulate, exaggerate, or malinger cognitive deficits may obtain
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir.
2002). 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. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d
964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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, the decision of the ALJ
must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
It is well-established that 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 disability, not simply his impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months.
The Commissioner’s regulations require him 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 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 age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Only
if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff’s age, education, and work
experience in light of his residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138,
1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in concluding that the Plaintiff was not disabled.
Defendant argues substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s determination.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine.
However, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s alleged mental
impairments, asthma, migraine headaches and hypertension were not severe impairments. (Tr.
At Step Two of the sequential analysis, the ALJ is required to determine whether a
claimant's impairments are severe. See 20 C .F.R. § 404.1520(c). To be severe, an impairment
only needs to have more than a minimal impact on a claimant's ability to perform work-related
activities. See Social Security Ruling 96-3p. The Step Two requirement is only a threshold test
so the claimant's burden is minimal and does not require a showing that the impairment is
disabling in nature. See Brown v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 153-54 (1987). The claimant,
however, has the burden of proof of showing he suffers from a medically-severe impairment at
Step Two. See Mittlestedt v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir.2000).
With regard to Plaintiff’s alleged mental impairments, including depression, anxiety,
passive-aggressive disorder, dependent personality disorder and possible bi-polar disorder, it is
noteworthy that Plaintiff applied for disability based on herniated discs. See Dunahoo v. Apfel,
241 F.3d 1033, 1039 (8th Cir. 2001) (failure to allege disabling mental impairment in application
is significant, even if evidence of depression is later developed). The record further revealed
that Plaintiff did not seek on-going and consistent treatment for his alleged mental impairments.
See Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 2001) (holding that lack of evidence of ongoing
counseling or psychiatric treatment for depression weighs against plaintiff’s claim of disability).
In addressing Plaintiff’s alleged mental impairments, the ALJ noted that the record
contained “vague mention” of Plaintiff’s alleged anxiety and depression. The ALJ pointed out
that in March of 2009, Dr. Walz performed a consultative mental evaluation wherein, Dr. Walz
found Plaintiff was able to sustain attention on tasks and was able to persist well. The record
revealed that Dr. Walz diagnosed Plaintiff with an anxiety disorder, and a passive-aggressive
personality disorder. The ALJ also pointed out the Dr. Walz found Plaintiff gave an extremely
poor effort, which Dr. Walz noted was suggestive of malingering. (Tr. 264). The ALJ also noted
that Dr. Magness diagnosed Plaintiff with mental impairments. In not giving full credit to Dr.
Magness’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s mental capabilities, the ALJ properly noted that these
diagnoses were unsupported by the record as a whole, and that these alleged impairments were
outside of Dr. Magness’s area of expertise. See Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 803 (8th
Cir. 2005)(Opinions of specialists on issues within their areas of expertise are “generally”
entitled to more weight than the opinions of non-specialists); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(5),
After reviewing the entire evidence of record, the Court notes there is no indication that
Plaintiff’s alleged impairments translate into functional restrictions that would impact Plaintiff
in his ability to work. Plaintiff has provided no reference in the transcript related to any such
limitations caused by his alleged impairments or that these impairments have more than a
“minimal effect” on his ability to work. Thus, this Court finds the ALJ properly determined
Plaintiff did not meet his burden of demonstrating his alleged mental impairments were severe.
With regard to Plaintiff’s alleged asthma, the record revealed that Plaintiff self-diagnosed
himself with asthma, and that he treated himself on occasion with an over-the-counter inhaler.
See Kisling v. Chater, 105 F.3d 1255, 1257 (8th Cir.1997) (concluding that, if an impairment can
be controlled through treatment or medication, it cannot be considered disabling). As for
Plaintiff’s migraine headaches, the medical record failed to show that he sought on-going and
consistent treatment for these headaches. See Novotny v. Chater, 72 F.3d 669, 671 (8th Cir.
1995) (per curiam) (the failure to seek treatment was inconsistent with allegations of pain).
Finally, with regard to Plaintiff’s alleged hypertension, the record revealed that Plaintiff was to
return for a blood pressure check in 2008, and if his blood pressure was elevated, medical
treatment would then be discussed. There is no indication that Plaintiff returned for a second
blood pressure test or that Plaintiff was in fact diagnosed with hypertension.
After reviewing the entire evidence of record, the Court finds substantial evidence to
support the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff’s alleged mental impairments, asthma, migraine
headaches and hypertension were not severe impairments during the time period in question.
Subjective Complaints and Credibility Analysis:
We now address the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's subjective complaints. The ALJ was
required to consider all the evidence relating to Plaintiff’s subjective complaints including
evidence presented by third parties that relates to: (1) Plaintiff's daily activities; (2) the duration,
frequency, and intensity of his pain; (3) precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) dosage,
effectiveness, and side effects of his medication; and (5) functional restrictions. See Polaski v.
Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984). While an ALJ may not discount a claimant's
subjective complaints solely because the medical evidence fails to support them, an ALJ may
discount those complaints where inconsistencies appear in the record as a whole. Id. As the
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit observed, “Our touchstone is that [a
claimant's] credibility is primarily a matter for the ALJ to decide.” Edwards v. Barnhart, 314
F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003).
After reviewing the administrative record, it is clear that the ALJ properly evaluated
Plaintiff’s subjective complaints. Although Plaintiff contends that his impairments were
disabling, the evidence of record does not support this conclusion.
With regard to Plaintiff’s back impairment, the record revealed that Plaintiff sought
treatment in September of 2007 for back pain that he originally indicated occurred after he
picked up a computer monitor, but later reported and testified that it occurred when he picking
up trusses while working. A MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine revealed severe canal stenosis at
L4-L5 due to a focal herniated disc; and a diffuse bulge and ligamentous hypertrophy at L3-4,
and no significant canal or neural foraminal narrowing. The record revealed that Plaintiff went
to the Northwest Arkansas Neurosurgery Clinic in November of 2007; however, the record does
not include a diagnosis from this clinic. The record failed to show Plaintiff reported back pain
again until he was examined by Dr. Magness in February of 2009. The record showed that
Plaintiff sought treatment for dental pain in November of 2008, at a free clinic; however, there
is no indication that Plaintiff reported back pain at that time. The record further revealed that
while Plaintiff was prescribed pain medication sporadically in late 2007, Plaintiff often reported
his medication consisted of Ibuprofen. See Rankin v. Apfel, 195 F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1999)
(infrequent use of prescription drugs supports discrediting complaints). The Court finds, based
on the evidence of record, that there is substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's finding that
Plaintiff’s back impairment was not disabling during the relevant time period. See Lawrence v.
Chater, 107 F.3d 674, 676 (8th Cir. 1997) (upholding ALJ's determination that claimant was not
disabled even though she had in fact sustained a back injury and suffered some degree of pain);
Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993) (holding that, although plaintiff did have
degenerative disease of the lumbar spine, the evidence did not support a finding of disabled).
While Plaintiff alleged an inability to seek treatment due to a lack of finances, the record
is void of any indication that Plaintiff had been denied treatment due to the lack of funds.
Murphy v. Sullivan, 953 F.3d 383, 386-87 (8th Cir. 1992) (holding that lack of evidence that
plaintiff sought low-cost medical treatment from her doctor, clinics, or hospitals does not support
plaintiff’s contention of financial hardship). It is noteworthy to the Court that Plaintiff had sought
treatment from low cost clinics, so Plaintiff knew that these clinics existed and apparently chose
not to seek treatment for his back pain.
Plaintiff's subjective complaints are also inconsistent with evidence regarding his daily
activities. In a Function Report dated November 8, 2007, Plaintiff reported that he spent his day
reading the Bible with his family, playing games with his wife and children, and watching
television. (Tr. 140-147). Plaintiff further indicated that he was able to take care of his personal
needs with some pain when reaching for his shoes; to prepare simple meals; to mow, do laundry
and clean with his wife; to drive alone; and to shop for groceries and household necessities with
his wife. Plaintiff also reported that he and his family attended church weekly, and that
sometimes Plaintiff helped with the sound system and with locking up the church. In March of
2009, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Walz that he could drive and shop independently, but had to write
what he needed on a list in order to remember things; that he attended church once a week; that
he was able to play internet games; and that he watched movies and cartoons with his children.
This level of activity belies Plaintiff’s complaints of disabling pain and limitations and the Eighth
Circuit has consistently held that the ability to perform such activities contradicts a Plaintiff’s
subjective allegations of disabling pain. See Hutton v. Apfel, 175 F.3d 651, 654-655 (8th Cir.
1999) (holding ALJ’s rejection of claimant’s application was supported by substantial evidence
where daily activities– making breakfast, washing dishes and clothes, visiting friends, watching
television and driving-were inconsistent with claim of total disability).
Therefore, although it is clear that Plaintiff suffers with some degree of pain, he has not
established that he is unable to engage in any gainful activity. See Craig v. Apfel, 212 F.3d 433,
436 (8th Cir. 2000) (holding that mere fact that working may cause pain or discomfort does not
mandate a finding of disability). Neither the medical evidence nor the reports concerning his
daily activities support Plaintiff’s contention of total disability. Accordingly, the Court
concludes that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff’s subjective
complaints were not totally credible.
We next turn to the ALJ’s assessment of Plaintiff’s RFC. RFC is the most a person can
do despite that person’s limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). It is assessed using all relevant
evidence in the record. Id. This includes medical records, observations of treating physicians and
others, and the claimant’s own descriptions of his limitations. Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d
798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005); Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 591 (8th Cir. 2004).
Limitations resulting from symptoms such as pain are also factored into the assessment. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has held that
a “claimant’s residual functional capacity is a medical question.” Lauer v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 700,
704 (8th Cir. 2001). Therefore, an ALJ’s determination concerning a claimant’s RFC must be
supported by medical evidence that addresses the claimant’s ability to function in the workplace.”
Lewis v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 2003). “[T]he ALJ is [also] required to set forth
specifically a claimant’s limitations and to determine how those limitations affect his RFC.” Id.
In the present case, the ALJ considered the medical assessments of examining agency
medical consultants, Plaintiff’s subjective complaints, and his medical records when he
determined Plaintiff could perform work at the sedentary level with some limitations.
With regard to the opinions of Plaintiff’s treating and examining physicians, the ALJ
addressed the weight given to Dr. Magness. The ALJ pointed out that Dr. Magness found
Plaintiff had severe restrictions with regard to walking, lifting, carrying and sitting. In deciding
not to give Dr. Magness’s opinion substantial weight, the ALJ noted that no x-rays or other testing
was performed during the consultative evaluation, that Dr. Magness did not review any other
objective medical testing results, and that the limitations set forth by Dr. Magness were not
supported by the record as a whole. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000)(the
ALJ may reject the conclusions of any medical expert, whether hired by the claimant or the
government, if they are inconsistent with the record as a whole). The record revealed that while
Dr. Magness opined Plaintiff was unable to walk without an assistive device, the record failed to
show that Plaintiff was unable to ambulate. As a matter of fact, the record revealed that in March
of 2009, after Dr. Magness’s evaluation, Plaintiff was able to drive and shop independently.
Based on our above discussion of the medical evidence and Plaintiff's activities throughout the
relevant time period, the Court finds substantial evidence of record to support the ALJ's RFC
Hypothetical Question to the Vocational Expert:
After thoroughly reviewing the hearing transcript along with the entire evidence of record,
the Court finds that the hypothetical the ALJ posed to the vocational expert fully set forth the
impairments which the ALJ accepted as true and which were supported by the record as a whole.
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 794 (8th Cir. 2005). Accordingly, the Court finds that the
vocational expert's testimony constitutes substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's conclusion that
Plaintiff's impairments did not preclude him from performing work as an interviewer/charge
account clerk and an assembler. Pickney v. Chater, 96 F.3d 294, 296 (8th Cir. 1996)(testimony
from vocational expert based on properly phrased hypothetical question constitutes substantial
Accordingly, having carefully reviewed the record, the undersigned finds substantial
evidence supporting the ALJ's decision denying the Plaintiff benefits, and thus the decision should
be affirmed. The undersigned further finds that the Plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed
DATED this 25th day of April, 2012.
/s/ Erin L. Setser
HON. ERIN L. SETSER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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