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Reed v. Colvin

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

August 8, 2016

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

          Virginia Woodard Reed, Plaintiff, represented by Conrad T. Odom, Odom, Elliott & Winburn.

          Social Security Administration Commissioner, Defendant, represented by Shalyn Joy Timmons, Office of General Counsel, Social Security Administration.


          ERIN L. SETSER, Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Virginia Woodard Reed, 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) under the provisions of Title II 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 application for DIB on January 22, 2013, alleging an inability to work since April 1, 2006, due to Rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, thyroid problems, peripheral artery disease, breast cancer (stage 1), anemia, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. (Doc. 9, pp. 14, 67, 149). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through December 31, 2011. (Doc. 9, p. 156). An administrative video hearing was held on January 14, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 9, pp. 32-66).

         By written decision dated April 15, 2014, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Doc. 9, p. 16). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments through her date last insured: inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis, and peripheral vascular disease. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that through her date last insured, 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. 9, p. 18). The ALJ found that through her date last insured, Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with the following restrictions: She is limited to occasional fingering, handling, climbing, balancing, crawling, kneeling, stooping and crouching.

(Doc. 9, p. 19). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that prior to her date last insured, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an elementary school teacher as actually and generally performed. (Doc. 9, p. 25).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on July 10, 2015. (Doc. 9, p. 5). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 5). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 7, 8).

         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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