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Washington v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

August 11, 2014

ANGELA WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Angela Washington, appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner") denying her claims for supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). For reasons set out below, the Commissioner's decision is REMANDED for action consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 28, 2010, Ms. Washington protectively filed for SSI benefits due to high blood pressure, ADHD, dizzy spells, arthritis, bad knees, and hand, back, and leg pain. (Tr. 144, 153, 155) Ms. Washington's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. At her request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on April 18, 2011, where Ms. Washington appeared with her lawyer. (Tr. 27) At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Washington and a vocational experts ("VE"). (Tr. 28-41)

The ALJ issued a decision on May 19, 2011, finding that Ms. Washington was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 12-22) The Appeals Council denied Ms. Washington's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. 1-3)

Ms. Washington, who was 27 years old at the time of the hearing, has a high school education. (Tr. 31) She has past relevant work as a hotel housekeeper. (Tr. 38)

II. DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE[1]

The ALJ found that Ms. Washington had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 28, 2010 and she had the following severe impairments: hypertension, bilateral knee and back problems, and ADHD. (Tr. 14) However, the ALJ found that Ms. Washington did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[2] (Tr. 16)

According to the ALJ, Ms. Washington has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, but she would be "precluded from climbing ropes, ladders, scaffolds, and crawling, and contact with vibrating machinery and limited to simple repetitive tasks, requiring only incidental contact with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public." (Tr. 17) The VE testified that the jobs available with these limitations were hand packer, labeling machine operator, and small products assembler. (Tr. 39-40)

After considering the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined that Ms. Washington could perform a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy, and found that Ms. Washington was not disabled.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, this Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the decision. Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011); 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Substantial evidence is "less than a preponderance, but sufficient for reasonable minds to find it adequate to support the decision." Id. (citing Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)).

In reviewing the record as a whole, the Court must consider both evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision and evidence that supports the decision; but, the decision cannot be reversed "simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion." ...


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