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Brasuell v. Colvin

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

August 5, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner SocialSecurityAdministration, Defendant.

          Christy Brasuell, Plaintiff, represented by Wayne W. Young, Wayne Young Law Firm, PA.

          Social Security Administration Commissioner, Defendant, represented by Adrial B. McField, Social Security Administration.


          ERIN L. SETSER, Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Christy D. Brasuell, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying her claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Title II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 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:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her current applications for DIB and SSI on July 25, 2011, alleging an inability to work since July 25, 2011, due to Bipolar Disorder, depression, a mood disorder, and sleep apnea. (Doc. 14, p. 148, 152, 195). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through September 30, 2011. An administrative hearing was held on October 11, 2012, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 14, p. 29-52). A supplemental hearing was held on April 4, 2013. (Doc. 14, p. 554-560).

         By written decision dated May 14, 2013, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Doc. 14, p. 14). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, disorder of the back, carpel tunnel syndrome, and depression. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Doc. 14, p. 15). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant can frequently climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop and crouch. She can frequently engage in rapid, repetitive flexion/extension of the wrists. She can understand, remember and carry out simple, routine, repetitive tasks. She can respond to the usual work situations and routine work changes. She can respond to supervision that is simple, direct and concrete. She can occasionally interact with supervisors, co-workers and the public.

(Doc. 14, p. 16). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform work as a housekeeper, an assembler, and a machine tender. (Doc. 14, p. 22-23).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on April 11, 2014. (Doc. 14, p. 1-5). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 10, 11).

         The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         II. Applicable Law:

         This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). 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. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 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 ...

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