United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
JANET C. MAJESTY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.
JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Janet Majesty, 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 a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II and of the Social Security Act (hereinafter "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 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).
I. Procedural Background:
Plaintiff filed for DIB on March 2, 2011, alleging an onset date of August 29, 2005, due to anxiety, blindness, headaches, and arthritis. Tr. 140-146, 159, 163, 178-179, 188-190, 192, 199, 201. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 70-74, 77-78. An administrative hearing was held on May 24, 2012. Tr. 25-69. Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel.
Plaintiff was 48 years old as of her onset date and 53 years old as of her date last insured. Tr. 19, 31, 164. She possessed the equivalent of a high school education, and past relevant work ("PRW") experience as a supervisor, wardrobe specialty worker, and cashier. Tr. 19, 32-33, 56, 164, 170-177. Plaintiff had a date last insured of March 31, 2011. Tr. 12.
On August 22, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff's anxiety, depression, arthritis, degenerative disk disease, fibromyalgia, and left eye blindness to be severe, but concluded they did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. Tr. 12-15. After partially discrediting Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the ALJ determined that she retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with the following limitations:
she can sit, stand and/or walk for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday, with normal breaks; she can also push and/or pull within the limits of the light exertional level; she can perform work that requires occasional visual acuity; she can perform frequent fingering bilaterally; and she can perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables and little judgment and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.
Tr. 15. With the assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ the concluded that Plaintiff could perform work as a tanning salon attendant and inspector/checker. Tr. 20.
Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, but said request for review was denied on August 16, 2013. Tr. 1-4. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. ECF Nos. 10, 11.
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 it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.2001); see also 42 U.S.C. § § 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines "physical or mental impairment" as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. § § 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply their impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.
The Commissioner's regulations require him to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his or her age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)-(f) (2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the plaintiff's age, ...