Taylor v. Social Security Administration
Court Docket Sheet

Eastern District of Arkansas

5:2016-cv-00338 (ared)

ANSWER to [2] Complaint by Social Security Administration.

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 9 Filed 01/17/17 Page 1 of 3 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, § Plaintiff, § § v. § Civil Action No. 5:16-CV-00338-BRW-JJV § CAROLYN W. COLVIN, § ACTING COMMISSIONER OF § SOCIAL SECURITY, § Defendant. § § DEFENDANT’S ANSWER Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner (Commissioner) of Social Security, through Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and her designated attorney-in-charge, Gabriel M. Bono, Special Assistant United States Attorney, files this Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint. The Court has exclusive jurisdiction in this matter under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Defendant pleads as follows: 1. Defendant admits the allegation contained in paragraph 1 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. 2. Defendant admits the allegation contained in paragraph 2 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. 3. Defendant admits the allegation contained in paragraph 3 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. 4. Defendant admits the allegation contained in paragraph 4 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. 5. Defendant admits the allegation contained in paragraph 5 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. 6. Defendant denies the allegation contained in paragraph 6 of Plaintiff’s Complaint, and states that the Appeals Council’s Review letter dated August 25, 2016 found no reason to review the Administrative Law Judge’s decision of September 3, 2015. Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 9 Filed 01/17/17 Page 2 of 3 7. Paragraph 7 of Plaintiff’s Complaint states a legal conclusion to which no responsive pleading is required. To the extent that the Court deems a responsive pleading is necessary, Defendant denies the same. 8. Paragraph 8 of Plaintiff’s Complaint states a legal conclusion to which no responsive pleading is required. To the extent that the Court deems a responsive pleading is necessary, Defendant denies the same. With respect to the last paragraphs of Plaintiff’s Complaint, Defendant states that this constitutes a Prayer for Relief to which no response is deemed necessary. However, if the Court requires a response, Defendant denies Plaintiff is entitled to judgment or relief sought. In response to Plaintiff’s Prayer request that this case be reversed in Plaintiff’s favor, or remanded for a further hearing, Defendant states that Plaintiff has not shown that reversal or remand is warranted under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). With respect to Plaintiff’s Prayer request for attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, should Plaintiff prevail and file an application for fees against the United States in accordance with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2412, enacted as part of the Equal Access to Justice Act, the Commissioner reserves the right to oppose any award under this statute. Defendant denies all other allegations of Plaintiff’s Complaint not specifically admitted. In accordance with section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Defendant files as part of the answer a certified copy of the transcript of the record including the evidence upon which the findings and decisions complained of are based. Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 9 Filed 01/17/17 Page 3 of 3 Respectfully submitted, CHRISTOPHER R. THYER United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas STACEY E. McCORD Assistant United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas TRACI B. DAVIS Acting Regional Chief Counsel Social Security Administration/s/Gabriel Bono GABRIEL M. BONO Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorney-in-Charge Michigan Bar P71570 Office of the General Counsel 1301 Young Street, Suite A702 Dallas, Texas 75202 (214) 767-8393 (214) 767-4117 Fax gabriel.bono@ssa.gov CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on January 17, 2017, I electronically transmitted the attached document to the Clerk of the Court using the ECF’s system for filing and transmittal of the Answer to Plaintiff’s Attorneys, Howard D. Olinsky, of the Olinsky Law Group, ECF registrants./s/Gabriel Bono GABRIEL M. BONO Special Assistant United States Attorney

NOTICE by Social Security Administration re [9] Answer to Complaint Notice of Conventional Filing of the Administrative Transcript

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 10 Filed 01/17/17 Page 1 of 2 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, § Plaintiff, § § v. § Civil Action No. 5:16-CV-00338-BRW-JJV § CAROLYN W. COLVIN, § ACTING COMMISSIONER OF § SOCIAL SECURITY, § Defendant. § DEFENDANT’S NOTICE OF CONVENTIONAL FILING OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE TRANSCRIPT Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, through Christopher R. Thyer, United States for the Eastern District of Arkansas, hereby notices the court that the United States Attorney’s Office will file the certified administrative record of the administrative proceeding in this case in accordance with section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and serve a copy of the transcript on Plaintiff’s attorneys. Respectfully submitted, CHRISTOPHER R. THYER United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas STACEY E. McCORD Assistant United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas TRACI B. DAVIS Acting Regional Chief Counsel Social Security Administration Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 10 Filed 01/17/17 Page 2 of 2/s/Gabriel Bono GABRIEL M. BONO Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorney-in-Charge Michigan Bar P71570 Office of the General Counsel 1301 Young Street, Suite A702 Dallas, Texas 75202 (214) 767-8393 (214) 767-4117 Fax gabriel.bono@ssa.gov CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on January 17, 2017, I electronically transmitted the attached document to the Clerk of the Court using the ECF’s system for filing the transmittal of a Notice of Electronic Filing to Plaintiff’s attorneys, Howard D. Olinsky, of the Olinsky Law Group, ECF registrants./s/Gabriel Bono GABRIEL M. BONO Special Assistant United States Attorney

ORDER: Plaintiff Brief due by 2/28/2017. Defendant must file a brief within 42 days of the date Plaintiff's brief is served. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 1/17/2017.

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 11 Filed 01/17/17 Page 1 of 2 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, * * Plaintiff, * v. * * CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting * No. 5:16CV00338-JJV Commissioner, Social Security * Administration * * Defendant. * ORDER Defendant has filed an Answer and transcript of the administrative proceedings. Plaintiff must file a brief on or before Tuesday, February 28, 2017. The brief must identify specific points for appeal. Plaintiff’s failure to file a timely brief may result in dismissal for failure to prosecute. Defendant must file a brief within forty-two (42) days of the date Plaintiff’s brief is served. Defendant’s brief must respond to the issues raised in Plaintiff’s brief and may include additional relevant issues. Each party must serve a copy of their brief on the opposing party the day of filing and file a certificate of service with the brief. Briefs should provide a history of the administrative proceedings and statement of facts, and identify specific points for appeal together with relevant law and argument. They should include citations of legal authority in support of arguments made. These citations should include specific page references within the case where the cited point is discussed. Briefs should also include citations to referenced portions of the transcript supporting the party’s arguments. Additionally, if either party believes oral argument would be helpful to the Court in deciding 1 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 11 Filed 01/17/17 Page 2 of 2 this matter, counsel may request argument. Counsel shall contact my courtroom deputy by telephone, 501.604.5194 or email chambers at jjvchambers@ared.uscourts.gov at the time of filing your brief. At counsel's choosing, oral argument may be in person or by teleconference. The scope of the argument is limited solely to the administrative record and additional evidence will not be admitted through oral argument. IT IS SO ORDERED this 17th day of January, 2017. ____________________________________ JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 2

PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF filed by Cassandra Denise Taylor. Defendant Brief due by 4/11/2017

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 1 of 19 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR,)) Plaintiff)) vs.) Civil Action No. 5:16-cv-00338-JJV) NANCY A. BERRYHILL) ACTING COMMISSIONER OF) SOCIAL SECURITY,)) Defendant.) PLAINTIFF’S APPEAL BRIEF I. STATEMENT OF ISSUES A. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff’s subjective complaints. B. The ALJ’s RFC finding is not supported by any medical assessment. II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE Plaintiff, Cassandra Denise Taylor ("Taylor"), applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on March 14 and November 7, 2014, respectively, alleging disability since December 10, 2013, due to high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes. Transcript ("T") 160-171, 190. Taylor’s applications were denied initially on April 25, 2014, and on reconsideration on June 12, 2014. T 67-94, 98-99. Upon Taylor’s request, ALJ held a hearing on March 27, 2015, at which Taylor, represented by counsel, and a vocational expert ("VE") appeared and testified. T 45-66. On September 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Taylor was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). T 24-43. When the Appeals Council denied Taylor’s request for review on August 25, 2016, the decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision of the Commissioner. T 1-6. 1 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 2 of 19 Taylor was born in October 1963, making her 50 years old at the time of her alleged onset date of disability, and 51 years old at the time of the ALJ’s decision. T 22, 133. Miller has a high school education and past work experience as an assistant manager, cashier, and cook. T 36-37, 191. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). a. Relevant Medical Evidence of Record Taylor saw Timothy Simon, M.D., on January 8, 2014, complaining of right leg pain running from hip to knee. T 298. Taylor reported it felt like she had a "dent" in her right hip, and that it hurt to put pressure on her right side. Dr. Simon noted that on examination, Taylor had positive straight leg raising. Dr. Simon diagnosed severe low back pain, and ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. T 298. Lumbar spine MRI on the same day showed L5 disc desiccation, bilateral facet joint cysts, and mild posterior broad-based disc bulge at L5-S1. T 287. Taylor was admitted to Drew Memorial Hospital by Dr. Simon on January 9, 2014 for treatment of severe low back pain that had been going on since September 2013. T 375. On examination, Dr. Simon noted positive straight leg raising, and a blood sugar level of 418. Taylor was discharged on January 10, 2014, with diagnosis of mechanical low back pain, after a pelvic MRI, right lower extremity Venous Doppler, right femur x-ray, and lumbar/hip MRI were reported as unremarkable. T.375, 381-385. Taylor’s discharge medications included Zocor, Lisinopril, Norvasc, Amaryl, and baby aspirin. T 376. Taylor started physical therapy. T 386. Taylor returned to see Dr. Simon on January 17, 2014, for follow-up treatment of her radiating severe low back pain, which she reported was "not as bad today." T 295. On examination, Taylor demonstrated pain on straight leg raising. Dr. Simon’s diagnoses included diabetes mellitus (DM) II, hypertension, and right hip pain. T 295. 2 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 3 of 19 Taylor saw Gregg Massanelli, M.D. on January 20, 2014, reporting that she was having pain in her right leg from hip to knee that felt like pins in her skin. T 437. Dr. Massanelli noted that Taylor’s blood sugar was uncontrolled, and her A1c level was 14. T 437. On examination, Dr. Massanelli noted that Taylor had tenderness to light touch in her thigh, knee, and lateral hip. Dr. Massanelli assessed right leg pain, but reported that he did not see an orthopedic cause of her discomfort, and recommended that if her symptoms persisted she be referred for pain management because a trial of steroids was not possible given her blood sugar levels. T 437-438. Taylor further followed-up with Dr. Simon throughout the rest of January, February, and March 2014. T 278-294, 342-352. On January 29, 2014, Dr. Simon started Taylor on Neurontin. T 291. On February 10, 2014, Taylor reported to Dr. Simon that her pain was no better and she was having "needle-like pain" down her right leg. Dr. Simon started Taylor on Lorcet. T 288. At the request of Dr. Simon, Taylor was examined by P.B. Simpson, Jr., M.D., on March 10, 2014. T 278. Taylor reported back pain radiating into her right hip and leg down to her knee since December 2013. Dr. Simpson noted that on examination that Taylor was "very obese," had reduced range of motion of her neck, and had absent Achilles and patella reflexes. T 278. Dr. Simpson reviewed the results of Taylor’s MRI scan and noted no compression of the nerve root, and concluded she was not a surgical candidate. Dr. Simpson’s impression was right-sided back pain with radiculopathy, etiology unclear. T 278. On March 12, 2014, Taylor reported to Dr. Simon that she had a headache and had numbness in her right hand. T 285. Dr. Simon admitted her to Drew Memorial Hospital due to poorly controlled diabetes.1 T 342. Neurological examination revealed no weakness, a brain 1/The record does not affirmatively reflect that poor control of diabetes was attributable to any noncompliance on her part with treatment recommendations. It is likely that the agency will attempt to argue that poor control was due to non-compliance. But the ALJ never made a finding in his decision, or concluded, that poor control of diabetes was attributable to noncompliance with prescribed treatment. 3 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 4 of 19 MRI and carotid ultrasound were normal, and an EKG showed normal sinus rhythm. T 342, 348-352. Taylor’s blood sugar reading was 308, and her blood pressure reading was 168/80. Dr. Simon’s discharge diagnoses included right upper extremity radiculopathy, tension headache, poorly controlled DM II, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. T 342. Taylor’s discharge medications included Pravastatin, Amaryl, Metformin, Neurontin, and Lisinopril. T 343. Taylor underwent a physical therapy evaluation at South Arkansas Rehabilitation on March 18, 2014, and her current pain level was noted to be 6/10, with a normal pain level of 10/10. T 572. Taylor was reported to be hypersensitive to touch in her right lower extremity. Taylor’s functional strength and mobility was assessed to be below the 5th percentile, and her level of functional impairment was rated as 79 percent. T 574. On March 19, 2014, Dr. Simon noted that Taylor had right hand numbness on examination, and he diagnosed right carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Simon prescribed a wrist splint and Lorcet, as well as Lantus for diabetes. T 284. On March 24, 2014, Taylor underwent electrophysiologic testing at Dr. Simon’s request due to right hand pain and numbness. T 311. Wade Collins, PT, ECS, reported that an electromyogram and nerve conduction showed "significant" focal neuropathy" of the right median nerve and median nerve demyelination at the wrist, which was "consistent with severe right carpal tunnel syndrome." PT Collins also noted left median nerve demyelination consistent with "moderate left carpal tunnel syndrome." T 311. On March 26, 2014, Taylor saw Joseph M. Fakouri, M.D., complaining of pain in both legs that went around her back. T 283. Dr. Fakouri noted that Taylor weighed 248 pounds, and assessed low back pain, neuropathy, and lower extremity swelling. T 283. 4 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 5 of 19 Taylor further followed-up with Dr. Simon in April and May 2014. On April 9, 2014, Taylor reported she was having burning in both legs. On examination, Dr. Simon noted that Taylor had pain on touch, and soreness of both legs. Dr. Simon’s assessment was "severe" peripheral neuropathy and DM II. Dr. Simon increased the Neurontin dosage. T 310. On May 5, 2014, Taylor informed Dr. Simon that she was having electric shock-like pain from her knees to her ankles. T 307. Dr. Simon’s assessment was peripheral neuropathy for which he increased the dosage of Gabapentin and placed her on Folatel and Lorcet. T 307. On May 16, 2014, Taylor was evaluated by Dr. Massanelli for a carpal tunnel release on the right. T 423-424.2 Dr. Massanelli’s examination showed that Taylor had subjective decreased sensation of all her fingertips, weakness without focal or motor deficit, and hypersensitivity to all finger tips and hand. Dr. Massanelli’s assessment was "severe" right carpal tunnel syndrome, and he recommended a right carpal tunnel release with post-operative physical therapy. T 424. On May 27, 2014, Taylor reported to Dr. Simon that she had pain in both legs all the way to her feet, and her pain medication was not working. T 306. Dr. Simon prescribed Neurontin for peripheral neuropathy. T 306. Dr. Simon completed a residual functional capacity questionnaire on May 27, 2014, and reported that Taylor was limited to sitting 15 minutes at a time, and standing/walking 15 minutes at a time. Dr. Simon further reported that Taylor could sit a total of 2 hours during an 8-hour workday; stand/walk a total of 2 hours; would need to take unscheduled breaks; could occasionally lift 10 pounds, but could not lift anything frequently; could only do 2/In determining that carpal tunnel syndrome was nonsevere, the ALJ mistakenly wrote in his decision that Taylor underwent right carpal tunnel release on May 16, 2014. T 30. But she only underwent an evaluation for a carpal tunnel release by Dr. Massanelli on May 16, 2014. T 423-424. As Taylor testified, the procedure was not performed because it could not be guaranteed that surgery would improve her condition. T 58. The record contains no operative notes from a right carpal tunnel release. Thus, the ALJ mistakenly concluded that Taylor’s right carpal tunnel syndrome "improved" with surgery. T 30. 5 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 6 of 19 grasping, fine manipulation, and reaching 10 percent of the time; and would miss more than 4 days of work per month. T 331-332. Taylor began seeing Jacquelin Sue Frigon, M.D., on June 24, 2014, reporting difficulty with balance and poorly controlled diabetes. T 558. On examination, Taylor had hand numbness and tingling, her proprioception was not intact, reflexes were hypoactive, and sensation in both legs from the knees to the ankles was reduced. Taylor could not walk on toes, and she ambulated with a walker. T 561. Dr. Frigon assessed peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and lumbago. Dr. Frigon advised Taylor to use a cane when walking; discussed the risks of falling, including large bone fracture and brain hemorrhage; explained that Taylor’s nerve pain was related to neuropathy; stressed the importance of Taylor keeping her diabetes under better control; and started Taylor on Cymbalta in addition to her Gabapentin. T 562. Taylor followed-up with Dr. Simon on July 7, 2014, and reported pain and swelling in both legs. T 542. Taylor also reported she had been falling, and could barely walk. Dr. Simon assessed DM II and diabetes peripheral neuropathy, and prescribed Neurontin and Cymbalta. T 542. On July 18, 2014, Taylor reported to Dr. Simon that she had fallen and injured her left knee and right shoulder. T 538. On examination, Taylor demonstrated left knee pain on extension and right shoulder tenderness. Neer and Hawkins tests3 were positive. T 538. Dr. Simon assessed left knee contusion and right shoulder pain, for which he prescribed Lorcet T 538. Taylor visited Dr. Frigon on August 26, 2014, reporting lower back pain radiating down her right leg, 6 falls within a month, difficulty even stepping on a step, and continual burning and tingling in legs. Dr. Frigon assessed peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and muscle weakness. Dr. 3/The Neer and Hawkins Tests are commonly used in orthopedic examinations to test for subacromial impingement. See http://www.journalofphysiotherapy.com/article/S1836-9553(11)70061-3/abstract?cc=y=. 6 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 7 of 19 Frigon reported that she was at risk for stroke, and that she was weakening from decreased nerve function. T 555. Dr. Frigon further discussed the health risks of obesity with her. T 555. Taylor returned to see Dr. Massanelli on August 25, 2014, reporting left knee pain and weakness, pain in her left thigh, inability to flex her hip, and a couple of falls. T 435. On examination, Dr. Massanelli reported that Taylor was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and weighed 230 pounds. Taylor demonstrated weakness of her left hip and ankle, reduced left lower extremity sensation, left knee pain with weight bearing, mild medial and lateral joint line tenderness of the left knee, and weakness with active extension. T 435-436. Dr. Massanelli also reported that left knee x-rays showed mild arthritic changes. Dr. Massanelli’s assessment was mild symptomatic osteoarthritis of the left knee and left lower extremity weakness, for which he recommended physical therapy. T 436. From September 2 through October 3, 2014, Taylor participated in physical therapy. T 478-499. Taylor further followed-up with Dr. Massanelli on October 6, 2014, reporting physical therapy helped her strength, but she was still having left thigh pain. T 433. On examination, Dr. Massanelli noted mild flexion contracture at the knee, weakness of the left lower extremity, tenderness of the left quad, and some possible swelling. Dr. Massanelli’s assessment was persistent left thigh pain. T 433. Dr. Simon admitted Taylor to Drew Memorial Hospital on October 16, 2014, due to a report of chest pain for 4 days. T 443. An electrocardiogram ("EKG") and cardiac enzymes were normal, as were chest x-ray and serial EKGs. T 443. Dr. Simon’s assessment was chest pain, and Taylor was discharged on October 17, 2014, on Lorcet. T 444, 449. MRI ordered by Dr. Massanelli on October 13, 2014, showed a benign lipoma of the mid-femoral shaft and mild muscle edema. T 427. Taylor returned to see Dr. Massanelli on October 7 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 8 of 19 20, 2014, for left thigh pain, unchanged. T. 431. Dr. Massanelli reported that examination was unchanged, and he concluded that Taylor had incidental lipoma of the vastus lateralis. Dr. Massanelli recommended removal of the lipoma. T 431. Taylor followed-up with Dr. Simon on August 5 and 21, September 3, October 24, November 5 and 19, and December 3 and 23, 2014, for treatment of continuing low back pain radiating down her right leg, left leg/knee pain, shoulder pain, and severe peripheral neuropathy. T 524-537. Dr. Simon’s examination findings included numbness of the feet, tenderness to palpation of the left knee/leg, positive Neer and Hawkins tests, and warmth of both feet. T 524, 525, 530, 536, 537. On November 5, 2014, she reported to Dr. Simon that she had fallen again and hurt her left leg and lower back. Dr. Simon assessed frequent falling and syncope. T 530. Taylor went to Jefferson Regional Medical Center on November 6, 2014, to establish cardiac care. T 515. Taylor reported a recent fall and that she could barely bear any weight on her left leg. Taylor reported occasional chest pain and shortness of air ("SOA"). T 515. Examination was unremarkable, and Taylor’s diagnoses included hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, shortness of breath, and chest pain. T 517. Taylor was counseled about her weight and the importance of weight loss and exercise. T 517. An EKG and Lexiscan on December 9, 2014, at Jefferson Regional Medical Center had to be terminated early due to shortness of breath and suggested a breast attenuation versus ischemia perfusion defect in the anterior walls. Taylor’s ejection fraction was 59 percent. T 567. On December 22, 2014, Dr. Simon completed a "Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire," reporting that she could walk less than 1 block; could sit for 15 minutes and walk/stand 10 minutes at a time; could sit a total of 2 hours and stand/walk a total of 1 hour during an 8-hour workday; needed to be able to shift positions; would need to take unscheduled 8 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 9 of 19 breaks; could occasionally lift 10 pounds, but could do no frequent lifting; could do grasping and fine manipulation 10 percent of an 8-hour workday; and could reach 20 percent. T 521-522. Taylor followed-up with Dr. Frigon on December 30, 2014, reporting back pain and burning feeling in her legs. Taylor reported having fallen 8 times since June, and that Gabapentin and Tramadol were not working. T 545. On examination, Dr. Frigon reported hand numbness and tingling, proprioception was not intact, reflexes were hypoactive, sensation in both legs from the knees to the ankles was reduced, Taylor could not walk on toes, and that she was ambulating with a walker. T 548-549. Dr. Frigon’s assessment was neuropathy and back pain, for which she continued Taylor on Gabapentin and recommended increased activity. T 549. Taylor further followed-up with Dr. Simon on January 21, February 19, March 18, and April 1, 15, and 20, 2015. T 570, 577-583. Taylor was treated for chronic severe peripheral neuropathy, pain in her feet, right shoulder pain, and a knot in her lower back. T 570, 577-579, 582-583. Taylor had an MRI taken of her right shoulder on April 15, 2015 that showed a supraspinatus chronic and partial tear, and moderate muscle atrophy. T 578. On April 20, 2015, Dr. Simon assessed a right rotator cuff tear. T 577. b. Hearing Testimony At the administrative hearing of March 27, 2015, Taylor testified that she was 51 years old, and had last worked in 2013 when she was an Assistant Manager at Dollar Tree. T 48. Taylor testified that she left work in 2013 because she and her daughter got sick. T 48, 50, 52. Taylor testified that she could no longer work due to "really bad" pain in her back and legs. T 50. Taylor testified that she could sit less than 30 minutes, stand 15 minutes, and required use of a walker prescribed by Dr. Simon to walk. T 53, 60. Taylor testified that she had a cane. T 53. She testified that she could not climb steps, and had moved to a trailer because it had a ramp. T 53. 9 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 10 of 19 Taylor further testified she fell every three weeks, and had to have a commode next to her bed because she fell going to the bathroom. T 54. Taylor testified that she needed help getting dressed, that she could not tie her shoes, she could not button buttons, and her son and daughter had to shampoo her hair. T 54-55. Taylor testified the only meals she made were sandwiches, and her neighbor took out her trash and got her mail for her. T 56. Taylor’s son and girlfriend did her laundry at a laundromat. T 56. Her medications included Gabapentin, Lortab, and Tramadol, but her medication did not help with back pain. T 56-57, 59. She further testified that she had not undergone carpal tunnel surgery because there was no guarantee that it would help. T 58. Additionally, Taylor testified that she could not reach overhead with her right arm due to right shoulder arthritis. T 60. A VE testified that Taylor had past work as an assistant manager, cashier, and short order cook, and had no transferable skills. T 63. In response to a hypothetical question from the ALJ, the VE testified that an individual of Taylor’s age, educational background, and past work experience, who possessed the RFC outlined by the ALJ, could perform the unskilled, light exertional jobs of shells inspector, Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") code 737.687-066; and bench press operator, DOT code 690.685-014. T 64. c. Administrative Decision By decision of September 3, 2015, the ALJ found Taylor had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of December 10, 2013. T 29. The ALJ found severe impairments of "lumbar spine degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy; arthritis; hypertension; diabetes mellitus with neuropathy; and obesity," but no impairment or combination of impairments met or equaled the criteria of an Appendix 1 Listing. T 29-31. The ALJ found 10 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 11 of 19 that she retained the RFC to perform light work that involves occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, and bending with no kneeling, crouching, or crawling. T 31. The ALJ further found that Taylor could not perform her past relevant work but, based upon VE testimony, could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. T 36-38. Wherefore, the ALJ found that Taylor was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from her alleged onset date of disability through the date of the decision. T 38. The ALJ’s decision became the final agency decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Taylor’s request for review on August 25, 2016. T 1-6. III. ARGUMENT Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), this Court may review the record to determine whether the Commissioner applied proper legal standards and whether substantial evidence supports the final agency decision to deny Plaintiff benefits. Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla. "It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 400 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion. In determining whether the existing evidence is substantial, the court must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Gray v. Apfel, 192 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 1999). A. The ALJ failed to properly evaluate Taylor’s subjective complaints. Because the ALJ is in a better position to evaluate credibility, the court will normally 11 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 12 of 19 defer to the ALJ’s credibility determinations as long as they are supported by good reasons and substantial evidence. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 907 (8th Cir. 2006). However, an ALJ must make an express credibility determination, detailing the reasons for discounting the testimony, setting forth inconsistencies, and discussing the Polaski factors. Renstrom v. Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1066 (8th Cir. 2012). In discrediting Taylor’s subjective complaints, the ALJ noted that although Taylor required "help with dressing, bathing, and toileting," and that she "is unable to perform most activities of daily living," she does not require assistance "at all times." T 35. But as the Eighth Circuit has held, the disability inquiry must focus on a claimant’s ability to perform the requisite physical acts day in and day out, in the sometimes competitive and stressful conditions in which real people work in the real world. Tang v. Apfel, 205 F.3d 1084, 1086 (8th Cir. 2000). That Taylor did not require assistance "at all times" hardly demonstrates an ability to perform the requisite physical acts day in and day out in the real world of work. As Taylor reported, which the ALJ does not dispute, she not only required help with dressing, bathing, and toileting, she also had to keep a commode next to her bed because she would often fall going to the restroom, she could not tie her own shoes or button buttons, her neighbor had to take out her trash and get her mail, her son and his girlfriend had to take her laundry to the laundromat to get it washed, she had to take several naps during the day, she was only able to make sandwiches, she did not do any housework, she was not able to drive, and she was able to go grocery shopping only once a month for 45 minutes. T 54-56, 207-211. Taylor further reported that she could only stand for 15 minutes at a time, had to use a walker or cane to walk, could sit for only 30 minutes at a time, and could not lift her right arm above shoulder level. T 53, 60. Such reported activity level does not demonstrate that Taylor could perform 12 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 13 of 19 work activities for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week. Taylor’s reported daily activities are perfectly consistent with her subjective complaints, even if she does not require assistance "at all times." A claimant need not be bedridden to qualify for disability benefits. Nowling v. Colvin, 813 F.3d 1110, 1122 (8th Cir. 2016) citing Hutsell v. Massanari, 259 F.3d 707, 713 (8th Cir. 2001). The ALJ also discredited Taylor’s credibility because "if the claimant’s symptoms were as limiting as alleged, then it is probable that the claimant’s treating physician would have prescribed more than mere conservative treatment for the claimant’s conditions." T 34. However, what the ALJ fails to recognize is that Taylor’s primarily limiting condition was diabetic neuropathy, which cannot be treated by more aggressive measures than what Taylor was receiving. As stated on the Mayo Clinic website, diabetic neuropathy has no known cure. See http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/basics/treatment/con-20033336. As the Mayo Clinic website further sets out, "to help slow nerve damage: Follow your doctor's recommendations for good foot care Keep your blood pressure under control Follow a healthy-eating plan Get plenty of physical activity Maintain a healthy weight Stop smoking Avoid alcohol or, if drinking is allowed, drink only in moderation Relieving pain." Further, as the Mayo Clinic explains, "[s]everal medications are used to relieve nerve pain, but they don't work for everyone and most have side effects that must be weighed against the benefits they offer. There are also a number of alternative therapies, such as capsaicin cream (made from chili peppers), physical therapy or acupuncture, that may help with pain relief." Id. There is nothing indicated by the Mayo Clinic that would be any more aggressive than the treatment Taylor attempted in trying to control the effect of diabetic neuropathy. As the medical reports of record reflect, Taylor was treated with significant pain medication and nerve damage 13 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 14 of 19 medication, including Lorcet (hydrocodone with acetaminophen), Neurontin (Gabapentin), and Ultram (Tramadol), in addition to being on insulin (Lantus). T 284, 288, 291, 306, 307, 310, 315, 322, 343, 443, 524, 525, 531, 534, 537, 538, 542, 549, 570, 577, 582, 583, 584.4 Taylor also underwent physical therapy T 278, 386-387, 477-499, 572-575. Steroid injections were not a possibility due to Taylor’s blood sugar levels. T 436, 438, 477-487, 489-499. Taylor was further prescribed a cane to help with her balance while walking, and Dr. Frigon reported Taylor was using a walker to ambulate without any indication that she believed use of a walker was inappropriate. T 549, 562. The ALJ failed to identify any more aggressive treatment that Taylor could have undergone for her diabetic neuropathy. The ALJ points out that although Dr. Frigon advised Taylor to use a cane, an MRI from December 30, 2014, that was ordered by Dr. Frigon, showed no abnormality. T 34. Despite this MRI result, Dr. Frigon specifically reported that Taylor was having difficulty walking because she was getting weaker from decreased nerve function, and that Taylor had nerve pain associated with her peripheral neuropathy. T 555, 562. The ALJ also notes in support of his finding that an assistive device was not required by Taylor, that Dr. Frigon reported on December 30, 2014, that Taylor had a steady gait without assistance, and could stand on heels and toes. T 34, 544-545. But what the ALJ totally ignores are Dr. Frigon’s reported examination findings that Taylor had 4/Hydrocodone is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of hydrocodone. Acetaminophen and hydrocodone is a combination medicine used to relieve moderate to severe pain. See https://www.drugs.com/mtm/lorcet-10-650.html. Ultram (tramadol) is a narcotic-like pain reliever. Ultram is used to treat moderate to severe pain. See https://www.drugs.com/ultram.html. Neurontin (gabapentin) is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. Gabapentin affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain. Neurontin is used in adults to treat nerve pain. See https://www.drugs.com/neurontin.html. Lantus (insulin glargine) is a man-made form of a hormone that is produced in the body. Lantus is used to improve blood sugar control in adults and children with diabetes mellitus. See https://www.drugs.com/lantus.html. 14 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 15 of 19 numbness and tingling, her proprioception was not intact,5 her reflexes were hypoactive,6 she had decreased sensation in both legs from the knees to the ankles, she could not walk on toes, and she was using a rolling walker. T 548-549. Dr. Frigon further reported on this date that Taylor was not ("0") independent with ambulation, climbing stairs, bathing, or dressing. T 549. Moreover, Dr. Simon consistently attributed Taylor’s complaints to diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which he referred to on several occasions as being "severe." T 306, 307, 310, 524, 525, 526, 534, 537, 542, 582, 583. Neither Dr. Simon nor Dr. Frigon suggested that there were more aggressive treatment options for diabetic neuropathy than what she had undergone. The ALJ’s discrediting of the effect of Taylor’s diabetic neuropathy because she did not seek more aggressive treatment demonstrates a basic misunderstanding by the ALJ of Taylor’s primary disabling condition. Moreover, the record clearly reflects Taylor’s prescribed need for an assistive device to aid in ambulation, contrary to the ALJ’s conclusion. Further, contrary to the ALJ’s conclusion, the record does in fact demonstrate upper extremity limitations resulting from Taylor’s torn right rotator cuff. T 34. Dr. Simon diagnosed a right rotator cuff tear on April 1, 2015, which was confirmed by MRI on April 15, 2015. T 578-579. On July 18 and December 3, 2014, as well as April 1, 2015, Dr. Simon also noted that Neer and Hawkins tests were positive. T 525, 538, 579. As noted above, Neer and Hawkins tests are commonly used in orthopedic examinations to test for subacromial impingement. See http://www.journalofphysiotherapy.com/article/S1836-9553(11)70061-3/abstract?cc=y=. Thus, positive Neer and Hawkins test would be consistent with Taylor having impingement of her right 5/Proprioception is the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium. See http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=6393. 6/Hypoactive means abnormally diminished activity. See http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hypoactivity. 15 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 16 of 19 shoulder, which does not support the ALJ’s conclusion that Taylor had no limitations resulting from her right rotator cuff tear. Moreover, contrary to the ALJ’s selective reading of the medical evidence, there is a plethora of reported examination findings that support Taylor’s subjective complaints. In addition to the reported medical findings of Dr. Frigon noted above, the MRI findings of a torn right rotator cuff, and Dr. Simon’s reports of positive Neer and Hawkins tests, other reported objective findings include reduced range of motion of the neck, absent patella and Achilles reflexes, right hand numbness, pain on straight leg raising, positive straight leg raising, low back and right leg/calf pain, pain to touch, extreme hypersensitivity in all fingertips, mild flexion contracture at the left knee, left lower extremity weakness, left quad tenderness, left hip and ankle weakness, reduced left lower extremity sensation, mild medial and lateral joint line tenderness, weakness with active extension, tenderness to light touch of the left knee, thigh and lateral hip, bilateral feet warmth, tenderness to palpation, left knee pain on extension, and right shoulder tenderness and weakness. T 278, 285, 295, 298, 310, 375, 424, 433, 435-437, 524, 538, 579. Positive diagnostic findings include L5 disc desiccation, bilateral facet joint cysts, a mild posterior broad-based disc bulge at L5-S1, significant focal neuropathy of the right median wrist nerve, right median nerve demyelination, left median nerve demyelination, mild to moderate aortic stenosis, significant aortic insufficiency, mild tricuspid and mitral regurgitation, a benign lipoma of the left thigh, mild muscle edema of the left thigh, mild arthritic changes, left ventricle borderline hypertrophy, and angina T 287, 311, 351-352, 427, 436, 565, 567. Moreover, a physical therapy evaluation on March 18, 2014, showed Taylor’s functional strength and mobility was below the 5th percentile, and her level of functional impairment was rated as 79 16 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 17 of 19 percent. T 574. There is clearly, contrary to the ALJ’s conclusion, ample medical evidence to support Taylor’s subjective complaints. In evaluating Taylor’s credibility, the ALJ selectively chose from the record, ignoring evidence that supports Taylor’s credibility. The ALJ’s credibility finding is contrary to the evidence of record and is not supported by substantial evidence. B. The ALJ’s RFC finding is not supported by any medical assessment. Although it is the ALJ’s duty to determine RFC, some medical evidence must support the determination of RFC, and the ALJ should obtain medical evidence that addresses the claimant’s ability to function in the workplace. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738 (8th Cir. 2004). An ALJ may not simply draw his own inferences about a claimant’s RFC from medical reports. Strongson v. Barnhart, 361 F.3d 1066, 1070 (8th Cir. 2004). In this case, the ALJ relied entirely on his selective interpretation of the medical evidence in determining Taylor’s RFC. The only medical functional assessments of record that provide even partial support for the ALJ’s RFC finding are the assessments of the State agency medical consultants, which the ALJ properly noted were not based upon a complete record. T 35. As the Eighth Circuit has held, the assessments of State agency medical consultants cannot constitute substantial evidence if they are not based upon a full record. Frankl v. Shalala, 47 F.3d 935, 938 (8th Cir. 1995); see also Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th 2004) (opinions of non-examining state agency consultants are entitled to little weight in evaluating disability). The ALJ then proceeded to improperly reject the opinions of Taylor’s treating physician, Dr. Simon. T 36. According to the ALJ, Dr. Simon’s functional assessments were inconsistent with the evidence of record. T 36. The ALJ incorrectly notes that outside of noting numbness of Taylor’s feet on May 27, 2014, his [Dr. Simon’s] examinations "did not reveal any other 17 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 18 of 19 abnormalities, and there was no evidence of difficulty with sitting, standing, walking, lifting, handling, fingering, and reaching. T 36. This is simply a mis-characterization of Dr. Simon’s reports and the overall medical evidence. In addition to reporting on May 27, 2014, that Taylor had numbness of feet, Dr. Simon reported on various occasions objective medical findings of mild swelling of the lower extremities, right hand numbness, pain with straight leg raising, positive straight leg raising, pain in the lower back and right leg/calf, pain on touch, warmth of both feet, tenderness to palpation, positive Neer and Hawkins tests, left knee pain on extension, and right shoulder tenderness, and weakness. T 283, 295, 298, 310, 524, 525, 536, 538, 579. Dr. Simon’s assessments of functional limitations resulting from diabetic peripheral neuropathy are also supported by the opinions of Dr. Frigon, who advised Taylor on June 24, 2014, to use a cane to help with balance when walking, and who advised Taylor on August 26, 2014, that she was at risk for a stroke and that she was having difficulty with walking because she was getting weaker from decreased nerve function. T 555, 562. Moreover, the record reflects that Taylor experienced multiple falling incidents. T 435, 515, 530, 536, 538, 542, 545. Physical therapy assessments further support that Taylor was experiencing significant functional limitations. On January 10, 2014, Taylor was noted to have only 3/5 right lower extremity strength, one-half normal hip range of motion, point tenderness throughout the right hip, and 8/10 pain in the right trochanteric area. T 387. On March 18, 2014, it was reported that Taylor’s functional strength and mobility was below the 5th percentile, and her level of functional impairment was rated as 79 percent. T 574. On September 2, 2014, Taylor had 2/5 left lower extremity strength and 3/5 right lower extremity strength, one-half of normal range of motion of the lumbar spine, one-quarter normal range of motion of the left lower extremity, 18 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 13 Filed 02/28/17 Page 19 of 19 numbness of both feet, required a cane to ambulate, had a slow and unstable gait, had positive bilateral straight leg raising, and 8-9/10 pain in her lumbar spine. T 492. Dr. Simon’s medical assessments are supported by not only his reported medical findings and medical reports, but also other substantial evidence of record. Therefore, Dr. Simon’s treating source assessments are entitled to controlling weight. Johnson v. Astrue, 628 F.3d 991, 994 (8th Cir. 2011) (treating physician’s opinion is given controlling weight if it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence). The ALJ’s RFC assessment is based upon a selective view of the medical evidence of record, from which he drew inferences about Taylor’s RFC with no supporting medical assessment. Therefore, substantial evidence of record does not support the ALJ’s RFC finding. V. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, it is respectfully requested that the final agency decision be vacated and that this matter remanded to the agency for de novo hearing and new decision. February 28, 2017 Respectfully submitted,/s/Howard D. Olinsky Howard D. Olinsky, Esq. Olinsky Law Group Attorneys for Plaintiff 300 South State Street, Suite 420 Syracuse, New York 13202 Phone: (315) 701-5780 Fax: (315) 701-5781 holinsky@windisability.com CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on February 28, 2017, I electronically filed the foregoing with the Clerk of the District Court using the CM/ECF system, which sent notification of such filing to Gabriel M. Bono, Esq., SAUSA, an ECF registrant:/s/Howard D. Olinsky Howard D. Olinsky, Esq. 19

DEFENDANT'S BRIEF filed by Social Security Administration.

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 1 of 12 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, § Plaintiff, § § v. § Civil Action No. 5:16-CV-00338-JJV § NANCY A. BERRYHILL, § ACTING COMMISSIONER OF § SOCIAL SECURITY, § Defendant. § § DEFENDANT’S RESPONSE BRIEF Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security’s (Commissioner) final decision denying her claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3), respectively. I. ISSUES Whether substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner’s final decision that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act during the relevant period from December 10, 2013, Plaintiff’s alleged onset date, through September 3, 2015, the date of the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) unfavorable decision. II. STATEMENT OF FACTS Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on December 10, 2013, due to high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes (Tr. 160, 190). She was 50 years old on her alleged onset date (Tr. 37). Plaintiff has a high school education and previously worked as an assistant manager, cashier and cook (Tr. 36). After the agency issued initial and reconsideration denials, an ALJ conducted Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 2 of 12 a hearing on March 27, 2015, at which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified (Tr. 45-66). After carefully considering the entire record, the ALJ issued his decision on September 3, 2015, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period (Tr. 24-44). The ALJ found that, pursuant to the sequential evaluation at step one, Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity after December 10, 2013 (Tr. 29). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff experienced the following severe impairments: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy; arthritis; hypertension; diabetes mellitus with neuropathy; and obesity (Tr. 29). At step three, the ALJ found that these impairments did not meet or equal any of the listed impairments found at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (Tr. 31). Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s subjective complaints were not entirely credible (Tr. 29-36). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work1, with only occasional climbing, balancing, stooping and bending; with no kneeling, crouching or crawling (Tr. 31). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work (Tr. 36). At step five, the ALJ found based on vocational expert (VE) testimony that, considering Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (Tr. 37-38). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act (Tr. 38). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ’s decision; however, the Appeals Council denied such a review on August 25, 2016, which rendered the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision (Tr. 1-6). On February 28, 2016, Plaintiff 1 Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1567(b); 416.967. 2 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 3 of 12 timely filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision. Due to the thoroughness of the ALJ’s presentation, the Commissioner incorporates the ALJ’s recitation of the case’s history (Tr. 24-43). III. ARGUMENT Substantial Evidence Supports the Commissioner’s Decision That Plaintiff Was Not Disabled from December 10, 2013, Through September 3, 2015. A. Judicial Standard Of Review The role of the Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the Commissioner, and not to reweigh the evidence or try the issues de novo. Loving v. Dept. of HHS, 16 F.3d 967, 969 (8th Cir. 1994). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner’s findings are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. at 401. Reversal is not warranted merely because substantial evidence could have supported an opposite decision. Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484, 486 (8th Cir. 1995). B. Burden of Proof The claimant has the burden of proving her disability by establishing a physical or mental impairment lasting at least twelve months that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); Ingram v. Chater, 107 F.3d 598, 601 (8th Cir. 1997). When determining whether a claimant is capable of engaging in any substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner applies the five-step sequential evaluation process. Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005). At steps one through four of the sequential evaluation process, the claimant carries the burden of proof. See Id. Although the burden of 3 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 4 of 12 production shifts to the Commissioner at step five, the burden of persuasion remains on the claimant. Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2004). Here, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at the fifth step because there were a significant number of jobs in the economy that Plaintiff could perform. C. Issues Before the Court Plaintiff alleges two points of error. First, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate her subjective complaints. See Plaintiff’s Brief at 1, 11-17. Secondly, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ’s RFC is unsupported by substantial evidence. See Plaintiff’s Brief at 1, 17-19. For the sake of clarity and brevity, the Commissioner will jointly address Plaintiff’s arguments regarding RFC and credibility. The Commissioner will show that the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff’s RFC and credibility. D. The ALJ Properly Assessed Plaintiff’s RFC and Credibility 1. RFC Plaintiff argues that due to reported pain throughout the entirety of her body, including her feet, legs, back, shoulders, hands, and arms, the ALJ improperly gave little weight to Dr. Timothy Simon’s opinion evidence. See Plaintiff’s Brief at 11-19. Moreover, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ impermissibly drew his own inferences from the medical record without any supporting opinion. See Plaintiff’s Brief at 17. Plaintiff’s arguments are misplaced. The ALJ is not required to rely on a particular physician’s opinion when formulating a claimant’s RFC, nor does the record need to have a treating or examining source opinion. See Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 619-20 (8th Cir. 2007). Rather, the medical evidence need only provide a sufficient basis for the RFC by showing a claimant’s ability to function in a work environment. Id. 4 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 5 of 12 A claimant’s RFC is the most a claimant can do despite her limitations, and the ALJ must consider all relevant medical and other evidence in the record to determine a claimant’s RFC. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1); 416.945(a)(1). Although the RFC determination draws from medical sources, the RFC is ultimately an administrative decision reserved to the Commissioner. Cox, 495 F.3d at 619. Medical records, physician observations, and a claimant’s reports about activity may be used to support the ALJ’s RFC finding. Partee v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 865 (8th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s RFC determination that Plaintiff could perform light work activity. Pursuant to reports of pain in her right lower extremity and back in January 2014, Plaintiff underwent an MRI of her hips, pelvis, and lumbar spine (Tr. 33, 287, 289). The imaging was interpreted as normal, but for some lumbar spasm/strain, L5 disc desiccation, bilateral "small" facet joint cysts, and "mild" disc bulging at L5-S1, which did not result in significant central canal or foraminal spinal stenosis (Tr. 33, 287, 289). Dr. Gregg Massanelli, an orthopedic surgeon, "[did] not see an orthopedic etiology for her discomfort" (Tr. 438). Similarly, neurosurgeon Pervie Simpson, Jr., M.D., opined March 10, 2014, that he saw, "nothing … in the foramina at any level on either side or in the canal compressing the nerve root;" leaving him to assess Plaintiff with, "back pain, right sided radiculopathy, etiology unclear" (Tr. 278). Straight leg-raising was negative on January 20, 2014, and March 20, 2014 (Tr. 33, 278, 437). And a venous doppler study of Plaintiff’s left leg was also "normal" (Tr. 33, 282). In August 2014, Dr. Massanelli was unable to detect any obvious atrophy, and diagnosed Plaintiff with only "mildly symptomatic osteoarthritis" of the left knee (Tr. 34, 436). An October 13, 2014, MRI of Plaintiff’s left thigh demonstrated a benign intramuscular lipoma and only mild muscle edema (Tr. 34, 427). In December 2014, Dr. Jacquelyn Frigon confirmed that Plaintiff’s lumbar spine imaging was normal (Tr. 34, 544). Finally, while an MRI of Plaintiff’s right shoulder performed April 15, 5 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 6 of 12 2015, showed a partial tear of her rotator cuff with moderate atrophy; it showed no joint effusion, an intact glenoid labrum, and normal bone marrow signal (Tr. 578). Objective tests showing mild to moderate conditions do not support a finding of disability. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738-39 (8th Cir. 2004). With specific regard to Plaintiff’s diabetes and neuropathy, which she reports to be her "primary disabling condition" (See Plaintiff’s Brief at 15); it is worth noting that Plaintiff was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, and has reported symptoms of neuropathy (including a burning sensation in her feet and leg pain) since, at least, 2008 (Tr. 263). However, examining physician, Dr. Nancy Tombs, reported in December 2010 that Plaintiff was able to work in a convenience store after receiving her diagnosis of diabetes and reporting symptoms of neuropathy until she was let go in May 2010 because the owner of the store decided to "change managers, and, in fact, fired all the staff" (Tr. 271). Working for years with the same symptoms alleged to be disabling undermines credibility. Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 798 (8th Cir. 2001). Moreover, as noted by the ALJ, while Plaintiff’s records do reflect some elevated glucose and blood pressure levels (Tr. 35, 284-298, 303-329, 339-421); the record is devoid of any required acute treatment, and contains no evidence of end organ damage (Tr. 35). "Merely being diagnosed with a disorder does not demonstrate a significant limitation, absent some evidence to establish a functional loss resulting from that diagnosis." Trenary v. Bowen, 898 F.2d 1361, 1364 (8th Cir. 1990). Treatment for her impairments has been conservative. On March 10, 2014, Dr. Simpson referred Plaintiff for physical therapy because Plaintiff was not a surgical candidate (Tr. 33, 278). Indeed, Plaintiff did undergo some physical therapy after which she reported improvement (Tr. 6 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 7 of 12 33, 433, 440-509). Impairments controlled by treatment or medication are not disabling. Brown v. Astrue, 611 F.3d 941, 955 (8th Cir. 2010). Moreover, in April and June 2014, State agency medical consultants Lucy Sauer, M.D., and James Mellons, M.D., opined that Plaintiff was capable of work activity at the light exertional level (Tr. 35, 75, 87). See Stormo, 377 F.3d at 807-08 (ALJ properly utilized evidence from state agency medical physicians to support, in part, decision that claimant’s impairments were not disabling); Ostronski v. Chater, 94 F.3d 413, 417 (8th Cir. 1996) (reviewing physician’s opinion can support finding that claimant is not disabled); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(2); 416.927(e)(2) (State agency physicians are "highly qualified" experts in evaluation of disability claims, and their opinions are to be treated as expert opinion evidence). The opinions of the State agency medical consultants further support the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff could perform work activity at the light exertional level. Returning to Plaintiff’s argument that Dr. Simon’s opinions were not provided their entitled weight, the Commissioner notes that Dr. Simon’s opinions are inconsistent with the objective medical evidence of record and also Plaintiff’s own reported ability to work following her 2007 diagnosis of diabetes and symptoms of neuropathy (Tr. 33-35, 75, 87, 262 271, 278, 282, 287, 289, 427, 433-509, 544, 578). While Plaintiff is correct that a treating physician’s opinion may be afforded great weight when supported by the evidence, the ALJ is tasked with weighing those opinions against the other evidence. In this case, the evidence is inconsistent with Dr. Simon’s opinions that, due to her diabetes and associated neuropathy, Plaintiff would be unable to perform work activity at what equates to a less than sedentary exertional level2 (Tr. 36, 331-332, 521-522). 2 Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain amount of walking and standing is often necessary in 7 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 8 of 12 Accordingly, the ALJ properly gave little weight to Dr. Simon’s opinions of record (Tr. 36). It is well established that an ALJ may grant less weight to a treating physician's opinion when that opinion conflicts with other substantial medical evidence contained within the record. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1013-1014 (8th Cir. 2000). Finally, Plaintiff makes note that Dr. Frigon advised her to use a cane for her reports of difficulty balancing in June 2014 (see Plaintiff’s Brief at 14-15; see also Tr. 34, 562). However as outlined by the ALJ in assessing Dr. Frigon’s advice to use a cane, the ALJ properly considered that only six months later, Dr. Frigon concurred in the opinion that imaging of Plaintiff’s spine was normal, and observed that Plaintiff’s gait was steady without assistance (Tr. 34, 544-545). In fact, Dr. Frigon advised Plaintiff to increase her activity level (Tr. 549). This evidence is inconsistent with the need for an assistive device (Tr. 34). When a treating physician's opinions are inconsistent or contrary to the medical evidence as a whole, they are entitled to less weight. See Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922 at 929-30 (8th Cir. 2010). In short, the ALJ accounted for Plaintiff’s limitations in his RFC determination by limiting Plaintiff to light work with only occasional climbing, balancing, stooping and bending; with no kneeling, crouching or crawling (Tr. 31). Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s RFC determination, and the Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s RFC argument. 2. Credibility When evaluating a claimant’s subjective complaints, the ALJ must consider objective medical evidence and any evidence relating to a claimant’s daily activities; duration, frequency, and intensity of pain; precipitating and aggravating factors; dosage, effectiveness, and side effects carrying out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are met. 20 C.F.R. §416.967(a). 8 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 9 of 12 of medication; and functional restrictions. Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984). The ALJ does not have to discuss each Polaski factor as long as the ALJ recognizes and considers the Polaski analytical framework. Tucker v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 781, 783 (8th Cir. 2004). Credibility of a claimant’s subjective testimony is primarily for the ALJ, not the reviewing court, to decide. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1218 (8th Cir. 2001). Here, the ALJ considered that objective medical evidence contradicted Plaintiff’s subjective complaints (Tr. 29-35). Despite Plaintiff’s allegations of disabling pain, the objective evidence is generally mild (Tr. Tr. 33-35, 75, 87, 262 271, 278, 282, 287, 289, 427, 433-509, 544, 578). Indeed, two of her own treating physicians note unknown etiology for her complaints of pain (Tr. 278, 438). A claimant’s credibility is undermined when her complaints are inconsistent with or not supported by medical findings. Bradley v. Astrue, 528 F.3d 1113, 1115 (8th Cir. 2008). The ALJ also pointed out that Plaintiff’s statements regarding her activities are inconsistent (Tr. 35). Plaintiff reported in her function report that she requires help with virtually all activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, using the toilet, and cooking; and denied the ability to stand or walk (Tr. 207-214). However, Plaintiff testified that she lives alone the majority of the week (Tr. 50). While she initially denied the ability to perform household chores or even prepare simple meals for herself (Tr. 209); she also reported the ability to prepare simple meals and go shopping (Tr. 56, 210). In fact, records of Drew Memorial Hospital dated October 2014, reflect that Plaintiff was "independent [in all activities of daily living] without assistance needed" (Tr. 462). And while Plaintiff reported that she does not drive, she also admitted that she does not drive because her license was suspended in 2009 (Tr. 35, 49). Activities such as cooking and shopping are consistent with a light work RFC and undermine a claimant’s complaints of disabling pain. Qualls v. Apfel, 158 F.3d 425, 428 (8th Cir. 1998). In addition, a claimant’s inconsistent 9 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 10 of 12 statements about her activities are a relevant factor an ALJ may consider when assessing credibility. Harvey v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 1013, 1015-16 (8th Cir. 2004). Moreover, Plaintiff was able to work with her diabetes and neuropathy for years, ceasing only when her employer decided to "change managers, and, in fact, fired all the staff" (Tr. 271). Ceasing work for reasons other than alleged disability undermines a claimant’s claim that her impairments are disabling. Goff, 421 F.3d at793 (8th Cir. 2005). Additionally, Plaintiff received only conservative treatment for her alleged impairments. In fact, Dr. Simpson specifically found that Plaintiff was not a surgical candidate for her reported back pain (Tr. 33, 278).). And physical therapy was beneficial (Tr. 33, 433, 440-509). See Chamberlain v. Shalala, 47 F.3d 1489, 1495 (8th Cir. 1995) (failure to seek aggressive medical care is not suggestive of disabling pain). The ALJ also noted that Plaintiff specifically denied any side effects of her medications (Tr. 34). And this finding is consistent with Plaintiff’s own reports (Tr. 214, 219, 230). Van Vickle v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 825, 830 (8th Cir. 2008) (claimant retains burden to prove disability and extent of alleged side effects). Plaintiff argues that the ALJ made a "selective reading of the medical evidence" in order to assess Plaintiff’s credibility. See Plaintiff’s Brief at 16. However, the ALJ considered all of the evidence in making his determination (Tr. 34-35). See Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 725 (8th Cir. 2002) (ALJ is in the best position to gauge credibility and is granted deference in this regard). In sum, substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s credibility determination because objective evidence during the relevant period showed no disabling impairments; Plaintiff engaged in a variety of daily activities inconsistent with her allegations of disabling symptoms; she made inconsistent statements regarding her abilities; she was able to work with the same impairments 10 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 11 of 12 she now claims to be the primary reason of her alleged disability; she obtained only conservative treatment; and the record indicates no side effects from medication that would interfere with her ability to work (Tr. 33-35, 75, 87, 207-214, 219, 230, 262 271, 278, 282, 287, 289, 427, 433-509, 544, 578). This evidence supports the ALJ’s decision that Plaintiff’s subjective complaints were not entirely credible, and the ALJ’s credibility determination must be affirmed. See Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 895-96 (8th Cir. 2006) (when the ALJ considers a claimant’s subjective complaints and finds independent reasons, supported by substantial evidence, to discredit those subjective complaints, the ALJ’s credibility determination must be affirmed). Accordingly, this Court should affirm the ALJ’s decision. III. CONCLUSION The ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff was not disabled within the purview of the Act is consistent with regulatory criteria and in accordance with relevant case law. Because the ALJ applied proper legal standards and substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s findings, the Court should AFFIRM the Commissioner’s final decision. Respectfully submitted, PATRICK C. HARRIS Acting United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas STACEY McCORD Assistant U.S. Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas TRACI B. DAVIS Acting Regional Chief Counsel Social Security Administration 11 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 14 Filed 04/06/17 Page 12 of 12/s/Gabriel Bono Gabriel M. Bono Special Assistant United States Attorney Eastern District of Arkansas Michigan Bar No. P71570 Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel 1301 Young Street, Suite A702 Dallas, TX 75202-5433 Phone: (214) 767-8393 Fax: (214) 767-4117 gabriel.bono@ssa.gov CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on April 6, 2017, I electronically transmitted the attached document to the Clerk of the Court using the ECF’s system for filing and transmittal to Plaintiff’s attorney, Howard D. Olinsky, an ECF registrant./s/Gabriel Bono Gabriel M. Bono Special Assistant United States Attorney 12

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER affirming the final decision of the Commissioner and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 4/10/2017.

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 15 Filed 04/10/17 Page 1 of 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, * * Plaintiff, * v. * * NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting * No. 5:16CV00338-JJV Commissioner, Social Security * Administration, * * Defendant. * MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Plaintiff, Cassandra Taylor, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration1 to deny her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs and the case is ready for a decision. A 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 free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996). In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner’s decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner’s decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993). The history of the administrative proceedings and the statement of facts relevant to this decision are contained in the respective briefs and are not in serious dispute. Therefore, they will not be repeated in this opinion except as necessary. After careful consideration of the record as a 1 Nancy Berryhill was sworn in as Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Admin-istration on January 23, 2017, replacing Carolyn Colvin. She has therefore been substituted as the defendant in this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d)(1). 1 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 15 Filed 04/10/17 Page 2 of 5 whole, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff was fifty-one years old at the time of the administrative hearing. (Tr. 47.) She is a high school graduate and her past relevant work includes work as an assistant manager, cashier, and short order cook. (Tr. 63.) Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to a combination of impairments. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)2 first found Ms. Taylor had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 10, 2013 – the alleged onset date. (Tr. 29.) The ALJ next determined Ms. Taylor has "severe" impairments in the form of lumbar spine degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, and obesity. (Id.) The ALJ further found Ms. Taylor did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.3 (Tr. 31.) The ALJ determined Ms. Taylor has the residual functional capacity to perform a slightly reduced range of light work. (Tr. 31.) Given this finding, the ALJ concluded Ms. Taylor could no longer perform her past relevant work. (Tr. 36.) So, utilizing the services of a vocational expert (Tr. 62-65), the ALJ determined whether other jobs existed that Ms. Taylor could perform despite her impairments. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs of production shells inspector and machine bench press operator. (Tr. 37.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Ms. Taylor was not disabled. (Tr. 38.) Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by concluding she maintained the residual functional capacity to perform light work. (Doc. No. 13 at 11-17.) I have carefully considered Plaintiff’s argument and find that the record provides sufficient evidence to support the ALJ’s findings. Plaintiff’s most notable impairments are degenerative disc disease of her lumbar spine and diabetes. 2 The ALJ followed the required sequential analysis to determine: (1) whether the claimant was engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, whether the claimant had a severe impairment; (3) if so, whether the impairment (or combination of impairments) met or equaled a listed impairment; and (4) if not, whether the impairment (or combination of impairments) prevented the claimant from performing past relevant work; and (5) if so, whether the impairment (or combination of impairments) prevented the claimant from performing any other jobs available in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)-(g) and 404.1520(a)-(g). 3 420 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926. 2 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 15 Filed 04/10/17 Page 3 of 5 But a review of the treatment notes reveals that Ms. Taylor’s doctors ordered only conservative treatment for her impairments. (Tr. 278, 573-75.) With regard to her diabetes, the Commissioner correctly points out that Ms. Taylor has endured this impairment since 2007 but she was still able to work for several years. Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 798 (8th Cir. 2001) (substantial evidence to support ALJ’s denial of benefits when, inter alia, claimant "... has worked for years with whatever impairments she has..."). Plaintiff has provided persuasive evidence in the form of Residual Functional Capacity questionnaires completed by her treating doctor, Timothy Simon, M.D. (Tr. 331-332, 521-522.) Her treating doctor should generally be given deference. But after a close review of the record, I find the ALJ could properly discount his opinions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reiterated: Generally, a treating physician’s opinion is given more weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). Indeed, when the treating physician’s opinion is supported by proper medical testing, and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record, the ALJ must give the opinion controlling weight. Id. "However, [a]n ALJ may discount or even disregard the opinion of a treating physician where other medical assessments are supported by better or more thorough medical evidence, or where a treating physician renders inconsistent opinions that undermine the credibility of such opinions." Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir. 2010) (alteration in original) (internal quotation omitted). Ultimately, the ALJ must "give good reasons" to explain the weight given the treating physician's opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). Anderson v. Astrue, 696 F.3d 790, 793 (8th Cir. 2012). Here, the ALJ had fair reasons to discount Dr. Simon’s conclusions. While Dr. Simon reports that Ms. Taylor is greatly limited, the medical evidence of record simply fails to support his assessment. Plaintiff’s numerous diagnostic tests fail to provide objective evidence of limitation to the degree Dr. Simon reports. (Tr. 313, 318, 320, 348, 349-353, 381-385, 427-429, 443, 449, 476, 578.) So rather than rely on Dr. Simon’s opinion, the ALJ rightly gave greater weight to the opinions of Lucy Sauer, M.D., and James Wellons, M.D. (Tr. 73-77, 79-88.) While not having the opportunity to actually examine or treat Plaintiff, these doctors reviewed Plaintiff’s medical records and provided fairly detailed analyses. I have carefully reviewed their opinions, as did the ALJ, and 3 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 15 Filed 04/10/17 Page 4 of 5 I find no reversible error in relying on them over Plaintiff’s treating doctor in this case. Plaintiff also argues the ALJ’s subjective symptom evaluation was flawed. (Doc. No. 13 at 11-17.) Given the lack of objective medical evidence in support of Plaintiff’s allegations, the conservative treatment prescribed, and the lack of lasting restrictions placed on Plaintiff by her physicians, the ALJ could correctly discount the Plaintiff’s subjective complaints. See Thomas v. Sullivan, 928 F.2d 255, 259-60 (8th Cir. 1991); Cabrnoch v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 561, 564 (8th Cir. 1989). The inconsistencies between the medical evidence and the Plaintiff’s subjective complaints gave reason to discount those complaints. Matthews v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 422, 425 (8th Cir. 1989). The ALJ made specific findings explaining his conclusions regarding Plaintiff’s subjective complaints. See Baker v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 955 F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). This Court should not disturb the decision of any ALJ who seriously considers, but for good reasons, explicitly discredits a claimant’s testimony of disabling symptoms. See Reed v. Sullivan, 988 F.2d 812, 815 (8th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff had the burden of proving her disability. E.g., Sykes v. Bowen, 854 F.2d 284, 285 (8th Cir. 1988). Thus, she bore the responsibility of presenting the strongest case possible. Thomas v. Sullivan, 928 F.2d 255, 260 (8th Cir. 1991). Plaintiff has simply not met that burden. The record contains ample support as a whole that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support [the] conclusion" of the ALJ in this case. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also, Robertson v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 1124, 1126-27 (8th Cir. 1991). I am sympathetic to Ms. Taylor’s claims as she clearly has limitations. But the overall medical evidence provides substantial support for the ALJ’s determination that she could perform work at the light exertional level. Plaintiff has advanced other arguments that I have considered and find to be without merit. 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 her findings. The test is whether there is substantial evidence on the record as a whole which supports the decision of the ALJ. E.g., Mapes v. Chater, 82 F.3d 259, 262 (8th Cir. 1996); Pratt v. Sullivan, 4 Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 15 Filed 04/10/17 Page 5 of 5 956 F.2d 830, 833 (8th Cir. 1992). I have reviewed the entire record, including the briefs, the ALJ’s decision, the transcript of the hearing, and the medical and other evidence. There is ample evidence on the record as a whole that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support [the] conclusion" of the ALJ in this case. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also Reutter ex rel. Reutter v. Barnhart, 372 F.3d 946, 950 (8th Cir. 2004). The Commissioner’s decision is not based on legal error. THEREFORE, the Court hereby affirms the final decision of the Commissioner and dismisses Plaintiff’s Complaint with prejudice. IT IS SO ORDERED this 10th day of April, 2017. ____________________________________ JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 5

JUDGMENT in favor of Social Security Administration against Cassandra Denise Taylor [15]. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 4/10/2017.

Case 5:16-cv-00338-JJV Document 16 Filed 04/10/17 Page 1 of 1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION CASSANDRA DENISE TAYLOR, * * Plaintiff, * v. * * NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting * No. 5:16CV00338-JJV Commissioner, Social Security * Administration, * * Defendant. * JUDGMENT Pursuant to the Order filed in this matter on this date, it is Considered, Ordered and Adjudged that the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed and Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed with prejudice. IT IS SO ORDERED this 10th day of April, 2017. ____________________________________ JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 1

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Description
1
10/28/2016
MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis by Cassandra Denise Taylor (bkj) (Additional attachment(s) added on 10/28/2016: # 1 Main Document - Correct)
2
10/28/2016
COMPLAINT against Social Security Administration, filed by Cassandra Denise Taylor
3
10/28/2016
ORDER granting permission to proceed in forma pauperis 1. The Clerk will issue summons without prepayment of fees and costs or security therefore. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 10/28/2016.
4
10/28/2016
NOTICE OF DOCKET CORRECTION re 1 MOTION for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. CORRECTION: The original document was attached in error due to a clerical mistake by the Clerk's office (illegible document). The correct document was added to docket entry 1 and is attached hereto for review by the parties.
10/28/2016
Summons Issued as to Social Security Administration, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General; and forwarded to attorney (Text entry; no document attached.)
5
11/22/2016
CONSENT to Jurisdiction by U.S. Magistrate Judge. Case reassigned to Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe. Signed by Judge Billy Roy Wilson on 11/22/2016.
6
11/23/2016
SUMMONS Returned Executed by Cassandra Denise Taylor. Social Security Administration served on 11/17/2016.
7
12/07/2016
PUBLIC NOTICE. Effective immediately the Pine Bluff Division will be an unstaffed office. Entered by the Clerk of Court on 12/7/2016.
8
12/14/2016
NOTICE of Appearance by Gabriel Michael Bono on behalf of Social Security Administration
9
01/17/2017
ANSWER to [2] Complaint by Social Security Administration.
10
01/17/2017
NOTICE by Social Security Administration re [9] Answer to Complaint Notice of Conventional Filing of the Administrative Transcript
11
01/17/2017
ORDER: Plaintiff Brief due by 2/28/2017. Defendant must file a brief within 42 days of the date Plaintiff's brief is served. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 1/17/2017.
12
01/18/2017
(This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no.pdf document associated with this entry) ADMINISTRATIVE TRANSCRIPT of proceedings re 9 Answer to Complaint and 10 Notice of Filing. Document received in paper and maintained in the Clerk's office. (alm) (Documents w/restricted access added as attachments on 01/19/2017 for review by Court users only.)
13
02/28/2017
PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF filed by Cassandra Denise Taylor. Defendant Brief due by 4/11/2017
14
04/06/2017
DEFENDANT'S BRIEF filed by Social Security Administration.
15
04/10/2017
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER affirming the final decision of the Commissioner and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 4/10/2017.
16
04/10/2017
JUDGMENT in favor of Social Security Administration against Cassandra Denise Taylor [15]. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe on 4/10/2017.
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