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Brennan v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division

September 25, 2014

DEBBIE JO BRENNAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Debbie Jo Brennan, 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 decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 8, 2011, Ms. Brennan protectively filed for SSI benefits due to degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 129) Ms. Brennan's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. At Ms. Brennan's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on December 21, 2012, where Ms. Brennan appeared with her lawyer. Ms. Brennan, who was forty-nine years old at the time of the hearing, has a GED and no past relevant work. (Tr. 19, 28) At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Brennan and a vocational expert ("VE"). (Tr. 25-43)

The ALJ issued a decision on February 1, 2013, finding that Ms. Brennan was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 9-20) The Appeals Council denied Mr. Brennan's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. 1-3)

II. DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE[1]

The ALJ found that Ms. Brennan had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 8, 2011, and she had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, morbid obesity, and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 11) However, the ALJ found that Ms. Brennan 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. 13)

According to the ALJ, Ms. Brennan has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, bending, crouching, kneeling, and crawling. The work must be simple with interpersonal contact incidental to the work performed, the complexity of one to two step tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment, and the supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 15) The VE testified that jobs available with these limitations were cashier II and housekeeper/cleaner. (Tr. 41) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Ms. Brennan could perform a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy, and found that she 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.[3] Substantial evidence is "less than a preponderance, but sufficient for reasonable minds to find it adequate to support the decision."[4]

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."[5]

B. Ms. Brennan's Argument for Reversal

Ms. Brennan asserts that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed because (1) there is substantial evidence supporting her disability claims; and (2) the ALJ failed to ...


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