United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Tanya Weeks ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI 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. 6. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on May 3, 2011. (Tr. 13, 160). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to diabetes, neuropathy, asthma, pancreatitis, and depression. (Tr. 197). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2011. (Tr. 13). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 46-47).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 31-45). On June 18, 2012, the ALJ held an administrative hearing to address Plaintiff's application. Id. This hearing was held in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Wayne Young. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id.
After this hearing, on August 28, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 10-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 3, 2011, her application date. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and obesity. (Tr. 15-16, Finding 2). However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 16, Finding 3).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16-20, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:
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 416.967(b) except she can climb ramps and stairs frequently and can climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds occasionally. She can balance and stoop frequently and can kneel, crouch and crawl occasionally. She should avoid even moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases and poorly ventilated areas.
Id. The ALJ considered Plaintiff's age and found she was thirty-four (34) years old, which is defined as a "younger individual" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008). (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 20, Finding 7).
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 20, Finding 5). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) tanning salon attendant (unskilled, light) with 61, 257 such jobs in the United States and 297 such jobs in Arkansas; and (2) domestic laundry worker (unskilled, light) with 371, 379 such jobs in the United States and 3, 332 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from May 13, 2011 through the date of his decision or through August 28, 2012. (Tr. 21, Finding 10).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7). On March 20, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on May 22, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on May 28, 2014. ECF No. 6. 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) (2006); 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 ...