United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MARK E. FORD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Daniel Quick, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(3)(A). 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 filed his application for DIB and SSI on May 18, 2012, due to depression, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, breathing problems and back problems. (T. 190) Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (T. 58, 61, 67, 70). Plaintiff then requested an administration hearing, which was held in front of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Ronald L. Burton on June 26, 2013.
At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 38 years of age and had completed the 8th grade. (T. 191) His past relevant work ("PRW") experience included working as a glass cutter from 2003-2006, temporary laborer from February 2003 to May 2012, construction worker in 2007, retail stocker from August 2007 to July 2008 and a sandwich maker from February 2010 to May 2010. (T. 191) Plaintiff stopped working on May 9, 2012, due to his conditions. (T. 190)
In a Decision issued on January 10, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff's lower back pain was severe, however it improved with medication. (T. 11) The ALJ determined the Plaintiff could perform a full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §404.1567(b). (T. 11) The ALJ compared the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") with the physical and mental demands of his previous work as a retail stocker and found the demands of the Plaintiff's PRW did not exceed his RFC. (T. 17)
Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, but said request for review was denied on February 7, 2014. (T. 1-3) Plaintiff then filed this action on April 10, 2014. (Doc. 1) This matter is before the undersigned for Report and Recommendation. Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (Doc. 9 and 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 relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's decision." Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000). "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 617, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). The AJL'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). The Court considers the evidence that "supports as well as detracts from the Commissioner's decision, and we will not reverse simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion." Hamilton v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2008). 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 at 1068.
It is well-established that 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 any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see also 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 demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply their impairments, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir. 1993).
If such an impairment exists, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has demonstrated that he is unable to perform either his past relevant work, or any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (20 C.F.R. §416.945). The Commissioner's regulations require application of a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his or her age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. § 404.150, 416.920 (2003).
The Court must determine whether substantial evidence, taking the record as a whole, supports the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff had not been disabled from the alleged date of onset on May 9, 2012. Plaintiff raises four issues on appeal, which can be summarized as: (A) the ALJ did not fully and fairly develop the record; (B) the ALJ erred in assessing the Plaintiff's credibility; (C) the ALJ erred as to the Plaintiff's RFC assessment; and, (D) the ALJ erred as to the Step 4 analysis finding Plaintiff could perform ...