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Jones v. Colvin

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

April 11, 2016

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



Plaintiff, Rosie Mae Jones, 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 application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 6.[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 DIB application on June 4, 2012. (Tr. 55). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to sarcoidosis, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, loss of left finger, left wrist problems, knee problems, foot problems, liver problems, and pancreas problems. (Tr. 56). Plaintiff’s alleged onset date was May 20, 2012. (Tr. 56). Her disability applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 56-65, 67-78).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and the request was granted. (Tr. 89-90). Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on August 13, 2013. (Tr. 30-54). Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Randolph Baltz. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dianne Smith testified at the hearing. Id. At this administrative hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-two (52) years old (Tr. 34), which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2015) (DIB). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she completed high school. (Tr. 37).

Following the hearing, on January 15, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s DIB application. (Tr. 13-24). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements under the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). She also found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of May 20, 2012. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined that since the alleged onset date of disability, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: left finger amputation, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, low vision, sarcoidosis, dermatitis, anxiety, depression, and connective tissue disorder. (Tr. 15, Finding 3). She 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. 16, Finding 4).

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

“claimant is further limited to only occasional climbing of stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling. She can never climb ladders. The claimant can see with corrective lenses, but must avoid jobs requiring excellent vision. She also must avoid extreme cold, extreme heat, and hazards, such as machinery and unprotected heights. She can frequently reach, handle, finger, and feel with her left, dominant, hand. Finally, the claimant is limited to unskilled work in that she is able to understand, retain, and carry out simple instructions, make simple work-related decisions, perform work where the complexity of a task is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment, work with few changes, work where interpersonal contact is incidental to work performed, and work where supervision is simple direct and concrete.” (Tr. 18, 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. 23-24). In making her 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 representative occupations, such as a marking clerk, with approximately 140, 000 jobs in the national economy. Id. Therefore, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability from the alleged onset date of May 20, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 24, Finding 11).

Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council of the January 15, 2014 decision by the ALJ. (Tr. 8). However, the Appeals Council denied her request for review of the decision. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on February 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court, ECF No. 1, and the Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF No. 6. 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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