United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
PATTY L. QUICK, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ERIN L. SETSER, Magistrate Judge.
Pro Se Plaintiff, Patricia L. Quick, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying her claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 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).
I. Procedural Background:
The applications for DIB and SSI presently before this Court were protectively filed on February 5, 2007, alleging an inability to work since September 16, 2004, due to bipolar disorder, anxiety, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and memory problems. (Tr. 107-112). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through June 30, 2005. (Tr. 55, 113, 766). An administrative hearing was held on December 4, 2008, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 7-47, 686-726).
In a written decision dated September 18, 2009, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform unskilled work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, with no contact with the general public. (Tr. 52-65). The Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision on March 5, 2010. (Tr. 2, 660). Plaintiff appealed this decision in federal district court.
In a decision dated May 11, 2011, the Court remanded Plaintiff's case back to the Commissioner. (Tr. 663-671). The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded Plaintiff's case back to the ALJ on June 17, 2011. (Tr. 672). Plaintiff's subsequent applications were associated with the application on remand. (Tr. 602, 674).
On November 29, 2011, a supplemental hearing before the ALJ was held, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 560, 599-655).
By written decision dated January 5, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 563). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbago/sciatica, near morbid obesity, exercise induced asthma, and bipolar disorder. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 567). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the RFC to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, and she must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, etc. In addition, she is limited to work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed and where the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment required. The supervision required is simple, direct and concrete.
(Tr. 569). With the help of vocational expert testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform work as a bench assembler, a laundry worker, and a hand packager. (Tr. 576).
Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on July 16, 2013. (Tr. 552-556). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 9). Both parties were directed to file appeal briefs; however, neither party filed a brief.
The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.
II. Applicable Law:
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart , 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart , 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Haley v. Massanari , 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, if after reviewing the record ...