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Black v. Colvin

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

March 31, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT



Plaintiff, Linda Diane Black, 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 decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) 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. 11.[1] 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 DIB application on February 18, 2013, (Tr. 56) and her SSI application on February 19, 2013, (Tr. 57) alleging she was disabled due to chronic back pain. (Tr. 56-58). Plaintiff’s alleged an onset date was June 1, 2007.[2] (Tr. 189). Her disability applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 58-68, 69-79, 82-92, 94-105).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and the request was granted. (Tr. 121-124). Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on February 27, 2014. (Tr. 29-55). Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Vincent France. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Larry Seifert testified at the hearing. Id. At this administrative hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-four (54) years old (Tr. 35), which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2015) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d) (2015) (SSI). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she completed high school. (Tr. 36).

Following the hearing, on July 18, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 16-23). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements under the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009. (Tr. 18, Finding 1). He also found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of March 9, 2009. (Tr. 18, Finding 2). The ALJ determined that since the alleged onset date of disability, Plaintiff had a severe impairment of Musculoskeletal Disorder (Back Disorder). (Tr. 18, Finding 3). He further determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 19, Finding 4).

In the decision, the ALJ considered the entire record and determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except as follows:

“claimant can frequently lift and/or carry ten pounds and occasionally twenty pounds, sit for a total of six hours in an eight hour workday, and stand and/or walk for a total of six hours in an eight hour workday. The claimant cannot work overhead bilaterally.” (Tr. 19, Finding 5).

The ALJ further determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 22-23). In making his determination, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of the VE as to whether jobs existed in the national economy for an individual with the Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC. Id. Specifically, the VE testified an individual with Plaintiff’s limitations would be able to perform the requirements of the following occupations: (1) Bill Collector with 753 such jobs in Arkansas and 113, 101 nationwide; (2) Fishing Lure Assembler with 3, 176 jobs in Arkansas and 185, 398 nationally; and (3) Membership Solicitor with 620 jobs in Arkansas and 127, 251 nationally. Id. Therefore, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability from the amended onset date of March 9, 2009, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).

Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council of the July 18, 2014 decision by the ALJ. (Tr. 6). However, the Appeals Council denied her request for review of the decision. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on July 31, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court, ECF No. 1, and the Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF No. 11. The 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 ...

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