United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
JESSIE J. GROOMS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K.E. Mahoney, United States Magistrate Judge
Jessie Grooms seeks judicial review of a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner)
denying his application for disability insurance (DI)
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. Grooms argues that the administrative
law judge (ALJ) erred in determining residual functional
capacity (RFC). I reverse the
Commissioner's decision and remand for
injured his back during a construction accident in 1999 and
had back surgery in 2000. AR 437. He was able to continue
working, but in 2013, his back pain began to worsen. Grooms
had to take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave several
times due to back pain-he was working for a company that
packages and distributes herbicide chemicals, and his job
involved sitting or standing while watching machinery,
dumping twenty to forty pound sacks into barrels, and rolling
fifty-pound barrels around to different machines. AR 44-45,
281, 366, 383. He quit in May 2013 after suffering anxiety
attacks that left him unable to work. AR 437. His need to
miss work due to pain contributed to his anxiety. AR 263,
filed an application for DI benefits on May 9, 2013, alleging
disability beginning on May 2, 2013. AR 13. He alleged
disability based on back and knee pain, hypertension,
arthritis, anxiety, and depression. AR 140. He was referred
for a psychological consultative examination with Dr. Dan
Rogers, who submitted an opinion evaluating Grooms'
mental RFC. AR 144, 442-44. State agency consultants Dr.
Matthew Byrnes and Dr. Philip Laughlin evaluated his physical
and mental RFC, respectively, in connection with the initial
disability determination in August 2013. AR 140-54.
Grooms' DI application was denied. AR 154. On
reconsideration in October 2013, state agency consultant Dr.
Jan Hunter evaluated his physical RFC, state agency
consultant Dr. Myrna Tashner evaluated his mental RFC, and
his application was denied once again. AR 155-71.
requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR 184. He submitted as
additional evidence a physical RFC opinion from one-time
examining physician Dr. Basil Hassan, who met with Grooms on
January 7, 2015. AR 550-54. The ALJ held a hearing on January
13, 2015, at which Grooms and a VE testified. AR 32-33. On
February 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a written opinion following
the familiar five-step process outlined in the
regulations. AR 13-24. The ALJ found Grooms suffers
from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc
disease, right knee patellofemoral syndrome, and anxiety
disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder. AR 15. When
determining Grooms' RFC, the ALJ did not fully credit
Grooms' subjective complaints, instead finding:
[Grooms] has the [RFC] to perform light work . . . such that
he could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently. He could stand or walk for six hours in an
eight-hour workday and sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday. He could only occasionally climb, balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch and crawl. He could not climb ropes, ladders,
or scaffolds. He could only occasionally reach overhead
bilaterally. He could have no more than occasional exposure
to extreme cold. He would be limited to performing tasks
learned in 30 days or less, involving only simple
work-related decisions, requiring little to no judgment, with
only occasional workplace changes.
AR 17, 21. When determining RFC, the ALJ assigned great
weight to the state agency consultants' opinions, little
weight to Dr. Rogers' opinion, and little weight to Dr.
Hassan's opinion. AR 19-20, 22. The ALJ found that Grooms
could perform his past work as a hand packager, and thus,
that he was not disabled. AR 22-23.
Appeals Council denied Grooms' request for review on
April 27, 2016, (AR 1-3) making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981. Grooms filed a timely appeal in this court.
must affirm the ALJ's decision if it “is supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a
reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a
decision.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707. The court
“do[es] not reweigh the evidence or review the factual
record de novo.” Naber v. Shalala, 22 F.3d
186, 188 (8th Cir. 1994). If, after reviewing the evidence,
“it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from
the evidence and one of those positions represents the
[ALJ's] findings, [the court] must affirm the
decision.” Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836,
838 (8th Cir. 1992).
argues that the ALJ's RFC determination is not supported
by substantial evidence. Grooms argues that the ALJ should have
adopted the limitations opined by Drs. Rogers and Hassan.
Particularly, Grooms emphasizes that he has greater
limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace than
found by the ALJ, that he has difficulties interacting with
others, and that he would not be able to sit or stand for six
hours in an eight-hour day without shifting positions or
Rogers opined in July 2013:
Whatever the cause, [Grooms] would have moderate difficulty
understanding and remembering instructi[o]ns, procedures, and
locations. His pace is poor and combined with his low
attention and concentration, he cannot reliably carry out
instructions. He is not able to interact appropriately with
supervisors, coworkers, or the public. Judgment seems to be