United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. SETSER, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Beverly Glasscock, 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:
Plaintiff protectively filed her current applications for DIB and SSI on February 18, 2004, alleging an inability to work since December 31, 2001, due to neck, back, hip and leg pain, migraine headaches, hypertension and asthma/possible chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (Tr. 50-52, 353-355). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through December 31, 2006. (Tr. 586, 612). An administrative hearing was held on March 14, 2006, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 372-414).
In a written decision dated September 13, 2006, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with limitations. (Tr. 10-17). The Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision on May 5, 2008. (Tr. 3-6).
Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's September 13, 2006, decision to this Court. In a decision dated August 13, 2009, this Court remanded the case back to the Commissioner to further develop the record, and to re-evaluate Plaintiff's impairments. (Tr. 436-443). The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded Plaintiff's case back to the ALJ on August 23, 2009. (Tr. 446). A supplemental administrative hearing was held on May 17, 2010. (Tr. 511-533). Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified.
In a written decision dated July 30, 2010, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform sedentary work with limitations. (Tr. 418-425).
Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's July 30, 2010, decision to this Court. In a decision dated March 20, 2012, this Court remanded the case back to the Commissioner to further develop the record by obtaining a RFC assessment for the relevant time period from an examining medical professional that had reviewed Plaintiff's medical records, including a MRI of the lumbar spine performed in March of 2005. (Tr. 604-611). The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded Plaintiff's case back to the ALJ on April 18, 2012. (Tr. 601-603). A supplemental administrative hearing was held on September 5, 2012. (Tr. 649-672). Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified.
By written decision dated January 4, 2013, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 588). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a back disorder, asthma and seizure activity. 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. 588). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the RFC to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she can occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop and crouch. She must avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, odors, fumes, gases and poor ventilation. She must avoid hazards, including heavy moving machinery and unprotected heights.
(Tr. 588). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform the requirements of a representative of occupations such as a small production machine operator, a small product assembler, and a small product inspector. (Tr. 593, 634-638).
Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which after reviewing additional evidence submitted by Plaintiff, denied that request on September 19, 2013. (Tr. 573-575). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision. (Doc. 1). Both parties filed appeal briefs, and this case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc.6; Doc. 13; Doc. 15).
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 ...