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Smith v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

October 10, 2014

LATYSHA ROSHUN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Latysha Roshun Smith ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and a period of disability under Titles II and XVI of the Act.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2005), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred this case to the Honorable Barry A. Bryant for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. The Court, having reviewed the entire transcript and relevant briefing, recommends the ALJ's determination be AFFIRMED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on October 24, 2012. (Tr. 9, 180-190).[1] Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to a broken right leg, anxiety, depression, and sleep apnea. (Tr. 204). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of August 15, 2012. (Tr. 204). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 9, 80-81, 124-136).

On April 10, 2013, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications. (Tr. 139-140). This hearing request was granted, and a hearing was held on July 9, 2013. (Tr. 25-53). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Denver Thornton. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-six (36) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008), and had an eleventh grade education. (Tr. 30-31).

On August 28, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 9-20). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since August 15, 2012. (Tr. 11, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of fracture of the right lower extremity, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, and a depressive disorder with anxiety. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 12, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 14-18). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 15). Second, the ALJ determined, based upon this review of Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the hearing testimony, and the evidence in the record, Plaintiff retained the RFC for light work, except could occasionally climb stairs, but never climb ladders; required an option to sit or stand at will; is able to understand, retain, and carry out simple instructions; make simple work-related decisions; perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; perform work in which the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, and little judgment; and perform work where supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 14, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform her PRW as a nursing assistant and deboner. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 19, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 48-51). Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the ability to perform other work such as an office helper with 70, 000 such jobs in the nation and as an inspector with 230, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 19). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not been under a "disability, " as defined by the Act, at any time through the date of his decision. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 5). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. On September 12, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-4). On October 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 10. This case is now ready for decision.

2. Applicable Law:

In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See 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 his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a "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), ...


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