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McAllister v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

October 22, 2014

EDITH McALLISTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Edith McAllister ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act.[1]

The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 7.[2] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

1. Background:

Plaintiff filed her current SSI application on October 25, 2010. (Tr. 12, 145). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to bipolar disorder and depression. (Tr. 163). At the administrative hearing in this matter, Plaintiff also alleged being disabled due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"), high blood pressure, and pain from an old neck injury. Id. Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 1, 2001. (Tr. 12, 145). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 60-61).

Thereafter, on April 25, 2012, the ALJ held an administrative hearing on Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 30-59). At this hearing, Plaintiff present and represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Suzette Skinner testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-two (52) years old, which is defined as a "person closely approaching advanced age" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d) (2008). (Tr. 34). Plaintiff also testified she had only completed the sixth grade in school. Id.

On August 29, 2012, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 9-22). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since October 25, 2010 (her application date). (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: affective disorder; bipolar disorder; degenerative disc disease of the spine, status post surgery; COPD; tobacco abuse; obesity; and hypertension. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 14-16, Finding 3).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16-21, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift up to 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently, stand and walk 6 hours of an 8 hour workday, sit 6 hours of an 8 hour workday as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) narrowed by the need for simple routine tasks with occasional contact with the general public.

Id.

The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 21, Finding 5). Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. Id. The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21-22, Finding 9). In making this determination, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the VE testified Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform occupations such as a sandwich maker (medium, unskilled) with 460 such jobs in Arkansas and 50, 000 such jobs in the United States; floor waxer (medium, unskilled) with 1, 100 such jobs in Arkansas and 90, 000 such jobs in the United States; and linen room attendant (medium, unskilled) with 1, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 60, 000 such jobs in the United States. Id.

Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from October 25, 2010 until August 29, 2012. (Tr. 22, Finding 10). Thereafter, on September 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 2, 2013. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12-13. 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) (2010); 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 ...


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