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Johnston v. Colvin

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

March 12, 2015

PATRICIA JOHNSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Patricia Johnston ("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 a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the 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. 5.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on December 7, 2011. (Tr. 11). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to degenerative disc disease and migraine headaches. (Tr. 163). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 84-85). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 96-105).

On January 9, 2013, this hearing was held in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Tr. 65-83). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Russell Bowden testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was sixty (60) years old, which is defined as a "person of advanced age" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(e) (2008). (Tr. 69). As for education, Plaintiff also testified she graduated from high school. (Tr. 70).

After this hearing, on August 30, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 8-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 27, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: cervical disc disease, migraine headaches, and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 13-17, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also found Plaintiff's impairments, singularly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 ("Listings"). (Tr. 17, Finding 4).

The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and her Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 17-20, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found they were not credible to the extent he alleged. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except no overhead reaching with the non-dominant (helper) left upper extremity.

Id.

Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her Past Relevant Work ("PRW") as an x-ray technician. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from June 27, 2011 through the date of his decision or through August 30, 2013. (Tr. 21, Finding 7).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7). On February 28, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 2, 2014. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10-11. 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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