United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
LINDA S. HARPER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Linda S. Harper ("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 applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), and period of disability under Titles II and 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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
On April 25, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications. (Tr. 13, 115-117). In those applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, pain, a back injury, a neck injury, bipolar disorder, arthritis, anxiety disorder, and acid reflux. (Tr. 134). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 31, 2011. (Tr. 13). Both of Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 53-56).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications. (Tr. 72-73). This hearing request was granted, and an administrative hearing was held on February 13, 2013 in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 473-488). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Ms. Parker testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of the hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-two (52) years old, which is defined as a "person closely approaching advanced age" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d) (2008) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 475). As for her education, Plaintiff also testified she had obtained her GED. (Tr. 476).
On March 20, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 10-25). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since March 31, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and cervical spine with a history of a replaced disc. (Tr. 15-18, Finding 3). 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. 19, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 19-23, Finding 5). 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 capacity to perform the following:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a general range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). The residual functional capacity produced by the medically determinable impairments permits the lifting and carrying of 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. The claimant could stand or walk for 2 hours of an 8-hour workday and sit for 6 hours of an 8-hour workday. 20 CFR §404. The claimant should avoid climbing, using ladders, ropes or scaffolds, squatting, kneeling, crawling, and have no reaching overhead. She should avoid exposure to wetness, humidity, vibration, and avoid hazards such as dangerous machinery.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found she was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 23, Finding 6). Then, the ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 24, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 24). Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following unskilled, sedentary jobs: (1) cashier with 2, 140, 00 such jobs nationally and 1, 100 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) order clerk with 185, 000 such jobs nationally and 3, 200 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) change account clerk with 180, 000 such jobs nationally and 1, 400 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 in the Act, at any time from March 31, 2011 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through March 20, 2013. (Tr. 24-25, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. (Tr. 7). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On April 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 17, 2014. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. 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 ...