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Adkins-Barnes v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

June 27, 2016

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

          Melissa J Adkins-Barnes, Plaintiff, represented by Laura J. McKinnon, McKinnon Law Firm.

          Social Security Administration, Defendant, represented by Earnie A. Joe, Social Security Administration & Stacey Elise McCord, U.S. Attorney's Office.


          JOE J. VOLPE, Magistrate Judge.

         This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The District Judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.


         Plaintiff, Melissa J. Adkins-Barnes, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny her claim for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs and the case is ready for decision.

         A court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996).

         In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, a court must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it; the court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993).

         "Disability" is the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(A). A "physical or mental impairment' is 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         After conducting an administrative hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time through July 15, 2014, the date of his decision. (Tr. 48-59) After receiving and considering additional evidence, on August 21, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making his decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4) Plaintiff then filed her complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2)

         I have reviewed the briefs and considered the parties' respective arguments. I have also reviewed the accompanying two volume transcript of medical and administrative evidence in this case. After consideration of the record as a whole, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

         Plaintiff is 38 years old. (Tr. 93) She earned a GED and has past relevant work as an insurance clerk, lathe operator, and office manager. (Tr. 106)

         The ALJ considered Plaintiff's impairments by way of the required five-step sequential evaluation process. The first step involves a determination of whether the claimant is involved in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i) (2008). If the claimant is, benefits are denied, regardless of medical condition, age, education or work experience. Id. § 416.920(b).

         Step 2 involves a determination of whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments which is "severe" and meets the duration requirement. Id. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If not, benefits are denied. Id. A "severe" impairment significantly limits a ...

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