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Spackman v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

February 9, 2015



NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Lorna Spackman seeks review of the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying her application for Social Security benefits. For the following reasons, the decision is reversed, and the case is remanded for reconsideration.

I. Background

A. Spackman's Medical History

Spackman seeks Social Security benefits for disabilities beginning in April 2011. She first sought treatment for fibromyalgia and edema in May 2011. That same month, Spackman spent three days in the hospital due to chest pain. [Tr. 364]. After receiving treatment for a pulmonary embolism, she was prescribed Coumadin. Id. In August, her dose of Coumadin was increased. [Tr. 246]. A month later, she reported to Dr. Barton Warren that she was experiencing symptoms of pain, joint stiffness, muscle aches, and headaches that limited her activities. [Tr. 300]. In October 2011, Dr. Warren diagnosed Spackman with multiple arthralgias and myalgias, hypertension, hypothyroidism, and history of pulmonary embolus. [Tr. 297]. In November, Spackman stopped Coumadin therapy due to the side effects of the drug. [Tr. 246]. In December, Spackman saw Dr. Miriam Borden, a rheumatologist. Dr. Borden noted that Spackman's symptoms were consistent with fibromyalgia. [Tr. 270].

In February 2012, an ultrasound was taken of Spackman's thyroid, which showed an enlarged thyroid gland with numerous modules. [Tr. 239]. In March, Spackman complained of difficulty swallowing and pain in her neck. [Tr. 294]. The next month, Spackman told Dr. Borden that she was feeling better. [Tr. 329]. In July, Spackman reported that she had experienced three episodes of her fingertips tingling and becoming white, and then red and flushed. [Tr. 326]. She also reported muscle pain. Id. Dr. Borden diagnosed Spackman with Raynaud's syndrome and increased her doses of gabapentin and tramadol. [Tr. 327].

In January 2013, Spackman reported tingling on her tongue, dizziness resulting in falls, leg edema, and difficulty expressing words. [Tr. 322]. Dr. Borden adjusted Spackman's medications to correct for some of these adverse side effects. [Tr. 323]. In March, Spackman told Dr. Rochelle Vale, her primary care physician, that she was experiencing severe fatigue, pain and stiffness and episodes of losing control of her muscles. [Tr. 350]. She also reported that during the episodes she lost the ability to speak, and that she was having general problems with high blood pressure and increased migraines. Id. Dr. Vale completed a medical statement in 2013 that indicated that Spackman suffered from widespread pain, pain in more than 11 pressure points, stiffness, tension headaches, sensation of swollen hands, chronic fatigue, and memory loss. [Tr. 357]. Dr. Vale opined that Spackman could work for only four hours per day. Id.

B. ALJ Decision

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied Spackman's request for disability benefits, concluding that she had the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to engage in substantial gainful activity. The ALJ concluded that despite Spackman's severe impairments of fibromyalgia, headaches, history of pulmonary embolism, enlarged thyroid, hypothyroidism, right leg sciatica, hypertension, and obesity, she retained the following RFC:

[T]o perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a); however, she is limited to occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; frequent handling and fingering and she requires a sit/stand option every 30 minutes.

[Tr. 17]. A vocational expert testified that with this RFC, an individual would be able to perform the requirements of occupations such as hospital admitting clerk and food/beverage order clerk. [Tr. 23].

In determining the RFC, the ALJ considered the medical evidence of the record, as well as Spackman's testimony at the administrative hearing regarding the extent of her symptoms. At the administrative hearing, Spackman complained that she suffered from migraines, shaky and cold hands several times a day, shortness of breath, and overall constant pain. [Tr. 36, 40-43]. She reported difficulty swallowing, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. [Tr. 36, 41]. She stated that she could stand for 10-15 minutes at a time, walk 50 yards, and sit 15-20 minutes at a time and 2-3 hours total in a day. [Tr. 41-42, 47]. She also reported using a cane. [Tr. 44]. She testified that she was able to get her children and husband up for school and work, watch television, go out to get the mail, and do light housework such as laundry and vacuuming with breaks. [Tr. 39].

II. Standard

"[R]eview of the Secretary's decision [is limited] to a determination whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Substantial evidence is evidence which reasonable minds would accept as adequate to support the Secretary's conclusion. [The Court] will not reverse a decision simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion.'" Mitchell v. Shalala, 25 F.3d 712, 714 (8th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla" of evidence; rather, it is ...

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