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Crossley v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

April 17, 2015

ANNA CROSSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Anna Crossley ("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 a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Act.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments of counsel, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB and SSI on November 16, 2011. (Tr. 12, 115-127).[1] Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to heart problems and a cyst on her ovary. (Tr. 150). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of August 1, 2011. (Tr. 12, 115, 122). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 12, 56-59). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 75).

Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 18, 2012. (Tr. 22-55). Plaintiff was present, and was represented by counsel, Susan Brockett, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Tanya Owen testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was twenty-six (26) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), and had a high school education with three years of college. (Tr. 28).

On January 4, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 12-18). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since August 1, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of vasovagal syncope and ovarian cyst. (Tr. 14, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 15, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-17). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for light work, except can frequently lift and/or carry ten pounds and occasionally twenty pounds, sit for a total of six hours in an eight hour walk day; can stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight hour work day; and must not be exposed to heights or dangerous machinery (Tr. 15, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 17, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was able to perform her PRW as a nursery school attendant, credit loan clerk, receptionist, sales representative, and informal waitress. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from her onset date or from August 1, 2011 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 18, Finding 7).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6-7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-4). On May 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 10. 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 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a "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), ...


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