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Bullington v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

July 3, 2014

LAJEANA BULLINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, LaJeana Bullington, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying her claim for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3)(A). In this judicial review, the court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Procedural Background

The application for SSI now before this Court was filed on September 30, 2009, alleging disability beginning June 1, 2006, due to back problems, carpal tunnel, heart problems, manic depressive bipolar, severe depression, female problems, cysts on ovaries and endometriosis. (Tr. 14, 169.) An administrative hearing was held on July 27, 2010 in front of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Glenn Neel. (Tr.42.) Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel. (Tr. 42). The ALJ also heard testimony from Vocational Expert ("VE") Monty Lumpkin. (Tr. 42.)

At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was twenty-seven years old and possessed a tenth-grade education. She testified that she never obtained a GED, but had completed a CNA (certified nursing assistant) training course in 2003. (Tr. 46.) Plaintiff had no past relevant work. (Tr. 22.)

On September 30, 2010, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: "chronic back pain, essential hypertension, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post surgery, morbid obesity, major mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, a personality disorder, and polysubstance dependence." (Tr. 16.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff maintained the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work except "she cannot perform frequent rapid repetitive flexion/extension of the wrists bilaterally or perform sustained driving as part of work duties. She can occasionally climb ramps/stairs and occasionally bend, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. She cannot climb scaffolds, ladders, or ropes or work near unprotected heights or dangerous equipments and machines. From a mental standpoint, she is able to perform repetitive routine work with superficial contact incidental to work with public and co-workers. Such work has non-complex simple instructions which are learned by rote with few variables and require little judgment and supervision is concrete, directed, and specific. (Tr. 18.)

With the assistance of the VE, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff could perform such representative occupations as production assembly worker, with examples of a lamp shade assembler, a shoe buckler and lacer, and a compact assembler. The VE also testified that she could also work as an addresser. (Tr. 23.)

Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council on October 11, 2010. (Tr. 6-10.) Based on a letter dated October 22, 2011 from Plaintiff's attorney, it appears that the Agency did not have record of this request or some medical records that had been submitted. (Tr. 6.) The Appeals Council declined review on April 3, 2013. (Tr. 1.) Plaintiff then filed this action. (ECF No. 1.)) The Plaintiff and Defendant have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (ECF Nos. 12, 16.).

Discussion

This court's review function is extremely limited. The court must determine whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, taking into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wilson v. Sullivan, 886 F.2d 172, 175 (8th Cir.1989); see also, Baugus v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 717 F.2d 443, 445 (8th Cir.1983); McMillian v. Schweiker, 697 F.2d 215, 220 (8th Cir. 1983). The court must accept the agency's factual determinations and reasonable inferences drawn from them if the record provides substantial evidence to support the findings and inferences. Russell v. Secretary of H.E.W., 540 F.2d 353, 355 (8th Cir.1976). 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).

There is a distinction between "substantial evidence" and "substantial evidence on the record as a whole."

"Substantial evidence" is merely such "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." "Substantial evidence on the record as a whole, " however, requires a more scrutinizing analysis. In the review of an administrative decision, "[t]he substantiality of evidence must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight." Thus, the court must also take into consideration the weight of the evidence in the record and applying a balancing test to evidence which is contradictory.

Wilson v. Sullivan, 886 F.2d 172, 175 (8th Cir. 1989).

This Court is unable to conduct the review of the record which the above cited authority requires because crucial medical documentation is missing from the official transcript. Specifically, the MRI data for Plaintiff's spine, taken in 2003 and 2005 at Summit Medical Center is missing. This MRI data is used by the ALJ to discredit Plaintiff's subjective allegations. (Tr. 19.) It is further referenced by the Plaintiff in a ...


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