United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
NORA S. SINGLETON PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT
Ball United States Magistrate Judge
Singleton filed for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits on December 7, 2012, alleging an onset
date of October 25, 2011. Her application was denied both
initially and upon reconsideration. She requested and was
granted a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on May 6,
2014. On November 10, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
that Singleton is not disabled. The appeals council denied
review. Singleton now brings this appeal pursuant to §
205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Having considered the memoranda of the parties and the
administrative record, the Court concludes that the decision
of the Commissioner should be reversed and this matter
remanded to the Commissioner.
Facts and Evidence before the ALJ
was born on September 14, 1964, and was 50 years of age at
the time of the decision of the ALJ. She has a high school
education and past relevant work experience as a poultry
worker at Sanderson Farms. Singleton alleges disability due
to neck pain, back pain, shoulder problems, carpal tunnel
syndrome, and hypertension.
has a history of deQuervain's tenosynovitis of the right
hand and underwent surgery for the condition in 2009. R. 202,
 at 205. In August of 2011, she began having problems
again and underwent several weeks of physical therapy. R.
194,  at 197. Upon discharge from physical therapy in
September of 2011, she was experiencing no pain. Id.
Singleton injured her right shoulder at work, and in October
of that year she underwent rotator cuff surgery by Dr. Larry
Field. R. 257,  at 260. She received physical therapy
following surgery and did well. R. 203,  at 206. By March
of 2012, an MRI of her shoulder showed complete healing with
no abnormalities, and she had normal range of motion,
strength, and stability of the shoulder. R. 256,  at 259.
Dr. Field released her to return to her job at Sanderson
Farms with no restrictions. Id.
November of 2011, Singleton began experiencing numbness and
tingling in her right hand. Dr. Field diagnosed carpal tunnel
syndrome and prescribed a hand brace. R. 248,  at 251; R.
250,  at 253. Nerve conduction studies and
electromyography performed in December of 2011 were normal.
R. 191,  at 194. By March of 2012, Singleton was
complaining of neck pain and pain radiating to her right
shoulder and arm. R. 267-68,  at 270-71. Dr. Field
ordered an MRI and referred her to Dr. Jeff Laseter, a pain
management specialist. Id. Dr. Laseter's
impression was that her right shoulder and arm pain
represented cervical radiculopathy. Id. The MRI
revealed moderate degenerative changes, most prominently
canal stenosis and foraminal narrowing at ¶ 4-C5. R.
265-66,  at 268-69. A cervical epidural steroid injection
by Dr. Laseter in April of 2012 did not give relief. R. 269,
 at 272. Dr. Laseter referred her to a physical medicine
and rehabilitation specialist, Dr. David Collipp, who ordered
a cervical CT and myelogram. These studies showed spondylosis
with mild flattening of the cord from C4-5 to C6-7 and
osteophytes from C3-4 to C6-7. R. 283-85,  at 286-89.
There was no evidence of nerve root compression. Id.
Dr. Collipp's assessment was degenerative cervical
stenosis. R. 313,  at 316. On August 10, 2012, Dr.
Collipp completed an assessment of Singleton's
work-related abilities. He opined that she could lift 10
pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, could never
climb, twist/bend/stoop, could never reach above shoulder
level, and could never walk or stand on slippery floors. R.
263,  at 266. He indicated that she had no restrictions
on fine finger movements, eye/hand movements, and
pushing/pulling. Id. It was Dr. Collipp's
opinion that Singleton could never return to work at the
poultry plant unless it were at the light duty level, which
he noted was not available for her at the plant. Id.
Dr. Collipp continued to see Singleton through December of
2012. Throughout this period, he directed that she was to
perform light duty work or to be off work. R. 262, 313, 264;
 at 265, 316, 267. He emphasized that she could never
work on slippery surfaces because of the risk of neurological
injury were she to fall. R. 279, 262, 313, 278,  at 281,
265, 316, 281. At Singleton's final evaluation by Dr.
Collipp, he noted that she was continuing to experience neck
pain. R. 277,  at 280.
of 2013, Singleton began treatment by Dr. Ayanna Jenkins at
the Copiah Health Center. R. 295-96,  at 298-99.
Treatment records through April of 2014 indicate that Dr.
Jenkins treated Singleton for cervical radiculopathy,
hypertension, and major depression. R. 295-311,  at
298-314. Medications prescribed by Dr. Jenkins include
Tramadol, Celexa, Duexis, Prednisone, Benazepril HCTZ,
Lyrica, Naproxen, and Flexeril. In December of 2012, Dr.
Jenkins administered a Toradol injection for Singleton's
neck pain. R. 304,  at 307.
hearing, Singleton testified as follows. She worked at
Sanderson Farms from 1988 until 2011. R. 45, 39-40;  at
48, 42-43. When she began there, she threw and hung chickens.
R. 47,  at 50. Later she worked as a trimmer with an
inspector. Id. She also trained other workers in
these positions. Id. After her shoulder surgery,
Singleton was unable to return to Sanderson because of Dr.
Collipp's restriction that she not work on slippery
floors. R. 40-41,  at 43-44. She explained that she
looked for other jobs, such as at McDonald's, but that
these also were precluded because of the restriction
regarding slippery floors. R. 41, 44;  at 44, 47. She has
not looked for a sitting job because her lower back prevents
her from sitting for long periods of time. Id. She
testified that before her employment with Sanderson, she had
worked at Stuckey's as a cook and loved the job but that
she would not be able to perform that kind of work now
because of weakness in her hand. R. 45-46,  at 48-49.
Singleton identified her additional health problems as carpal
tunnel syndrome, frequent headaches, spasms in her shoulder,
inflammation in her heel, and drowsiness from her medication.
R. 42-43, 48-49;  at 45-46, 51-52. Singleton wore a hand
brace to the hearing. She explained that she wears it only
occasionally and was wearing it that day because she had had
pain in her hand the night before. R. 43,  at 46.
testifying at the hearing was a vocational expert (VE). The
VE classified Singleton's past relevant work as a poultry
work as light and skilled. R. 52,  at 55. The ALJ posed
to the VE the hypothetical of a person of Singleton's
age, education, and work history, who can perform sedentary
work with the limitation that she not perform overhead
lifting and that her work be restricted to following simple
instructions. R. 52,  at 55. The VE responded that such a
person could perform the jobs of small parts assembler, bench
assembler, electronics assembler, and electronics worker.
Id. In the second hypothetical, the ALJ added the
necessity of frequent, unscheduled breaks. R. 53,  at 56.
The VE testified that there would be no work available for
such an individual. Id. The claimant's attorney
then questioned the VE regarding the jobs identified in
response to the first hypothetical, adding the additional
limitation of only occasionally performing fine manipulation.
R. 54,  at 57. The VE responded that such an individual
would not be able to perform the jobs identified.
The Decision of the ALJ
decision, the ALJ worked through the familiar sequential
evaluation process for determining disability. She found that
Singleton had not been engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date and that she met the
insured status requirements for Title II benefits through
December 31, 2016. R. 16,  at 19. At step two, the ALJ
found that Singleton has the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, obesity, and carpal tunnel
syndrome and the non-severe impairment of depression. R.
16-17,  at 19-20. The ALJ determined at step three that
Singleton does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. 18,
 at 21. The ALJ found that Singleton has the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform the full range of light
work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b).
Id. In determining Singleton's RFC, the ALJ
stated that she gave significant weight to the opinions of
treating physicians Dr. Field and Dr. Collip that she could
return to light work. R. 20,  at 23. She considered
Singleton's testimony regarding her pain and limitations
but determined that they were not entirely credible. R.