United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Charlotte Simmons ("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 a 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.
Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on April 1, 2011. (Tr. 60, 206-218). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and cirrhosis of the liver. (Tr. 242). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of Feburary 5, 2011. (Tr. 60). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 115-118).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 135-171). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on July 16, 2013 in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Tr. 87-114). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Sherri McDonough. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Beth Clem testified at this hearing. Id.
On September 24, 2013, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 57-70). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 62, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since February 5, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 62, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: left tibia plateau fracture, status post open reduction and internal fixation (ORIP); cervical spine degenerative disc disease; mild memory loss due to head trauma; bipolar disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; and posttraumatic stress disorder. (Tr. 63, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that 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. 63-65, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 65-69, 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:
The claimant retains the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; and push and/or pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She can occasionally climb stairs, balance, kneel and crawl, as well as, frequently stoop and crouch. Further, the claimant retains the mental residual functional capacity to understand, remember, and carry out simple job instructions; make judgments in simple work-related situations; respond appropriately to coworkers and supervisors with occasional, incidental contact that is not necessary to the job; have no dealings with the public in performance of her job; and respond appropriately to minor changes in the usual work routine.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 70, Finding 6). Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a housekeeper (light, unskilled). Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this PRW, the ALJ determined she had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from February 5, 2011 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through September 24, 2013. (Tr. 70, Finding 7).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. (Tr. 55). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On December 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 17, 2014. ECF No. 5. 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 ...