United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Alma Dooley, 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 claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). 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). Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on April 13, 2011, alleging an onset date of July 1, 2007, due to heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. (Tr. 9, 171-172). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff retained insured status through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 11, 179). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An administrative hearing was held on October 22, 2012, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 29-79). A Vocational Expert ("VE") was also present and testified. (Tr. 72-78).
On January 23, 2013, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 9-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "dysfunction of a joint-right arm, inflammatory arthritis, cardiomyopathies, hypertension, mood disorder, and somatoform disorder." (Tr. 11, Finding 3). After reviewing all of the evidence presented, however, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listing. (Tr. 12-14, Finding 4).
The ALJ next evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 14-22). The ALJ first evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found she was not entirely credible. (Tr. 15-16). The ALJ then found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can occasionally stoop and crouch; can frequently reach, handle, finger and feel with the right dominate arm; she is able to understand, retain, and carry out simple instructions; make simple work-related decisions; perform work where the complexity of a task is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, and with little judgment; work in an environment with few, if any, work place changes; perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; and perform work where supervision is simple direct and concrete.
(T. 14, Finding 5).
With the help of a VE, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's past relevant work ("PRW"). (Tr. 73-75). The ALJ determined Plaintiff could not perform any PRW. (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 22-23, 75-78). Based on the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as housekeeper and price marker. (Tr. 22-23, Finding 10). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council on February 7, 2013, which denied the request on January 30, 2014. (Tr. 1-5). On February 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on February 28, 2014. (ECF No. 7). Both Parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (ECF Nos. 11, 13).
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 a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. "Our review extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's decision; we also consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision." Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). 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 to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record to support 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).
To determine whether a claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation. She determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the RFC to perform her PRW; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove there are other jobs in the national economy the claimant can perform. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(f); ...