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Guillory v. Colvin

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

July 2, 2015

CAROLYN COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Tammy Guillory ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and a period of disability under Title II 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.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on April 3, 2012. (Tr. 10, 132-133). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to depression, migraines, asthma, obesity, and back and neck pain. (Tr. 167). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of November 13, 2011 which was amended at her hearing to May 15, 2011. (Tr. 10, 167). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 10, 82-84, 91-92).

Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing on her application. (Tr. 89-90). This hearing was held on April 15, 2013. (Tr. 29-77). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, David Harp, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Myrtle Johnson, testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty (40) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c) (2008). (Tr. 33-34). The Plaintiff testified she graduated high school and had one year of college. Id.

On September 6, 2013, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 10-23). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 15, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: morbid obesity, migraines, asthma, osteoarthritis of the right knee, right calcaneal spur, umbilical/ventral hernia with history of hernia surgery, dysthymia, eating disorder, and passive dependent personality traits. (Tr. 12, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments or combination of 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. 14, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-22). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not totally credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined, based upon a review of Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the hearing testimony, and the evidence in the record, the Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform sedentary work, except she could only occasionally balance and stoop, but could not climb, kneel, crouch, or crawl; needed to avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, and poor ventilation; and could perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, and little use of judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 15-16, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. Id. The ALJ however determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 22-23, Finding 10). The vocational expert ("VE") testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 71-72). Based upon the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the ability to perform other work such as jewelry repair with 4, 490 such jobs in the region and 235, 910 such jobs in the nation and as a document preparer with 25, 060 such jobs in the region and 2, 828, 140 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 23). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not been under a "disability, " as defined by the Act, from May 15, 2011, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 6). On September 12, 2014, the Appeals Council declined to review this decision. (Tr. 1-3). On October 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 21, 2014. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 12. 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 supporting 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 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), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a "substantial gainful activity"; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at ...

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