United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Hope Marie King ("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 Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and a period of disability under Title II 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 in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Plaintiff filed her disability application on April 18, 2012. (Tr. 9). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to joint problems, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and asthma. (Tr. 162). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 31, 2008. (Tr. 9). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 74-75).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on February 11, 2013. (Tr. 82-83). This hearing request was granted. (Tr. 25-72). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 7, 2013 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Susan Rupp. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008). (Tr. 30). As for her education level, Plaintiff testified she had completed an associate's degree in business. (Tr. 30).
On December 16, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 6-19). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since December 31, 2008, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: asthma, cervicalgia, obesity, bipolar disorder (not otherwise specified), post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorder (not otherwise specified with histrionic traits). (Tr. 11, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those 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. 12-13, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ first evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 13-18, Finding 5). 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 404.1567(b) except she can perform occasional overhead reaching bilaterally. She must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and similar environments. Her work is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions, with few, if any, workplace changes, and no more than incidental contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff had no PRW she could perform. (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18-19, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified a hypothetical person with Plaintiff's limitations retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) merchandise marker with 2, 134 such jobs in Arkansas and 219, 159 such jobs in the nation; (2) inspector checker or warehouse checker with 423 such jobs in Arkansas and 27, 371 such jobs in the nation; and (3) laundry worker with 3, 332 such jobs in Arkansas and 371, 379 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform other work and had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from December 31, 2008 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through December 16, 2013. (Tr. 19, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 4). On May 5, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On June 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12-13. This matter 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 possible ...