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Parrinello v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 2, 2019

KRISTY PARRINELLO, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL[1], Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Kristy Parrinello's appeal regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action under 42 U.SC. § 405(g). The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc. 8.] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the entire administrative record, including the transcript and medical evidence. Based on the following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         Issues for Review

         Parrinello presents three alleged errors for review. She asserts that the ALJ erred by failing to find that her carpal tunnel syndrome and mental impairments were severe impairments. She also asserts that the ALJ improperly discounted her credibility specifically regarding her activities of daily living. Finally, she states that the hypothetical to the vocational expert was not proper, because the RFC was not supported by substantial evidence and did not include all of her impairments. The Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and should be affirmed.

         Standard of Review

         The Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A).

         The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). The Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision so long as it conforms to the law and is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex rel. Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir. 2003).

         Discussion

         Severe Impairments

         First, Parrinello asserts that the ALJ failed to find that her carpal tunnel syndrome and her mental impairments of major depressive disorder, anxiety, and bipolar disorder were severe impairments. After the ALJ has determined that a claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ then determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments that has or is expected to last twelve months or will result in death. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(ii), 416.909, 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(ii)[2]. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by the claimant's statement of symptoms. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1508, 416.908. To be considered severe, an impairment must significantly limit a claimant's ability to do basic work activities. See 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). “Step two [of the five-step] evaluation states that a claimant is not disabled if his impairments are not severe.” Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing Simmons v. Massanari, 264 F.3d 751, 754 (8th Cir. 2001)). “An impairment is not severe if it amounts only to a slight abnormality that would not significantly limit the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” Id. at 707. “If the impairment would have no more than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to work, then it does not satisfy the requirement of step two.” Id. (citing Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007)). “It is the claimant's burden to establish that his impairment or combination of impairments are severe. Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707 (citing Mittlestedt v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2000)). “Severity is not an onerous requirement for the claimant to meet, . . . but it is also not a toothless standard.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 708.

         1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

         The ALJ found that Parrinello had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, sacroiliitis, and tendinitis of the left shoulder. The ALJ found that Parrinello's carpal tunnel syndrome was mild and not a severe impairment. (Tr. 13.) In support, the ALJ stated that in June 2014, she did not display any motor weakness, neurologic abnormalities, or any evidence to show erosion in an x-ray, and had only mild findings in electrodiagnostic testing. (Tr. 12-13.) The ALJ noted that she had a normal bilateral hands X-ray in 2014. (Tr. 352-56.) A nerve conduction study in 2016 indicated mild carpal tunnel syndrome in her right arm at the elbow. (Tr. 466-68.)

         Parrinello's application identified arthritis and difficulty using hands due to joint pain in her application. (Tr. 180.) Parrinello wrote in her Function Report that she had trouble raising her arms above her head and it hurt to use her hand, including when stirring and chopping. (Tr. 204-205, 208.) During her testimony, she testified that she had carpal tunnel syndrome and could not feel her fingertips during her 2013 pregnancy. (Tr. 37.) She also testified that her hands and wrists hurt too bad to wash her hair and she could only wash 1 or 2 dishes before her wrists and hands were hurting. (Tr. 42.) Finally, she testified that she had pain throughout her body, including her elbows, wrists, and hands. (Tr. 47.)

         After a careful review of the record, the Court finds that the ALJ's finding that Parrinello's carpal tunnel syndrome was not a severe impairment is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. First, a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome does not always require manipulative limitations to be included in an RFC determination. See Cypress v. Colvin, 807 F.3d 948, 951 (8th Cir. 2015) (ALJ did not have to include manipulative limitations in RFC determination where claimant was diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, because claimant retained full range of motion and full muscle strength). The record contains no medical evidence that Parrinello's carpal tunnel syndrome more than minimally impacted her ability to perform basic work activities. Halton v. Astrue, 689 F.Supp.2d 1148, 1167-68 (E.D. Mo. March 15, 2010). The medical record indicated that Parrinello had full muscle strength and normal range of motion of her upper ...


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