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Foshee v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

March 16, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



Plaintiff, Andrea Foshee, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the Commissioner) denying her claim for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter “the Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 1382. In this judicial review, the court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner’s decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. Procedural Background:

On September 20, 2012, [1] the Plaintiff filed her application for SSI alleging disability since June 1, 2007, [2] due to seizures, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), anxiety, depression, anger issues, high blood pressure, and acid reflux. (Tr. 81, 95-96, 165-170, 190, 207, 230-231) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 81-110) An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held an administrative hearing on September 11, 2013. (Tr. 27-52) Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Frederick Spencer.

At the time of the administrative hearing, the Plaintiff was 24 years old and possessed a high school education. (Tr. 50, 81, 95, 192, 243) She had no past relevant work (”PRW”) experience. (Tr. 19, 198-199, 222-223)

On October 17, 2013, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff’s seizure disorder, obesity, chronic low back pain, borderline intellectual functioning (“BIF”), learning disorder not otherwise specified, generalized anxiety disorder, and personality disorder not otherwise specified were severe, but did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 10-14) After partially discrediting the Plaintiff’s subjective complaints, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except:

she can only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to heat and cold and even moderate exposure to hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights, and she cannot drive. The claimant is limited to work that involves simple, routine and repetitive tasks involving only simple, work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace changes. She can have no more than incidental contact with coworkers, supervisors and the general public.

(Tr. 14) With the assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ then concluded the Plaintiff was capable of performing work as a housekeeper, assembler, and inspector. (Tr. 20)

The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for review on November 14, 2014. (Tr. 1-3) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (ECF No. 1) This case is before the undersigned by consent of the parties. Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (ECF Nos. 11, 14)

II. Applicable Law:

This court’s role is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner’s findings. Vossen v. Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner’s decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ’s decision if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2014). 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. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). In other words, 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, we must affirm the ALJ’s decision. Id.

A claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines “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. § 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that her disability, not simply her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.

The Commissioner’s regulations require her to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his or her age, education, and experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). Only if he reaches the final stage does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff’s age, education, and work experience in light of his or her ...

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