United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
JAMES L. McCRACKEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MARK FORD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, James McCracken, 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 his claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the provisions of Title II 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 his application for DIB on July 8, 2009, alleging an inability to work since June 12, 2008, due to attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, and manic depressive disorder. (Tr. 29, 179). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff retained insured status through December 31, 2014. (Tr. 169, 514).
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 67-71). An administrative hearing was held on March 17, 2011, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 26-66). On April 7, 2011, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6-25). Plaintiff then requested a review by the Appeals Council of the decision on April 18, 2011, which denied that request on October 19, 2011. (Tr. 1-5).
Plaintiff subsequently appealed the decision to this Court. On July 23, 2012, the Commissioner filed a motion requesting the case be remanded in order to remove erroneous medical records and allow the ALJ to evaluate the medical evidence based on a corrected administrative record. On August 8, 2012, Magistrate Judge James Marschewski entered a decision remanding the case. McCracken v. Astrue, No. 11-cv-3132, 2012 WL 6642745 (W.D. Ark. Aug 8, 2012).
A new administrative hearing was held on May 8, 2013, at which Plaintiff again appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 531-563). By a written decision dated September 19, 2013, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "disorder of the shoulder, obesity and mood disorder." (Tr. 514). After reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listing. (Tr. 515-516). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except the claimant can occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, and crouch. He cannot work overhead with his dominant arm. He can perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in a setting in which interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; however, he should not have contact with the general public. He can respond to supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete.
With the help of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ determined Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work ("PRW"), but retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as machine tender, assembler, and inspector. (Tr. 523-524, 718-721). The ALJ then found Plaintiff had not been under a disability during the relevant time period. (Tr. 524).
Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 7). Both parties have filed appeals briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (Docs. 10, 11).
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. "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 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 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).
A claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines "physical or mental impairment" as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff ...