United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Melissa Williams, 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 claim 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).
filed her current application for DIB on May 8, 2013,
alleging an inability to work since June 1, 2012, due to
epidural injections, muscle spasms, and left nerve issues.
(Doc. 14, pp. 58, 147, 150). Plaintiff's date last
insured is December 31, 2013. (Doc. 14, p. 147). Accordingly,
the relevant time period for this DIB claim is from June 1,
2012 through December 31, 2013. An administrative hearing was
held on May 7, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel
and testified. (Doc. 14, pp. 28-57).
written decision dated September 24, 2014, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe - back
disorder, skin/tissue disorder, and psoriatic arthritis.
(Doc. 14, p. 15). 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. 16).
The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except that she is limited to occasional performance of
postural activities, i.e., climbing, balancing, crawling,
kneeling, stooping and crouching.
(Doc. 14, p. 18). With the help of the vocational expert
(VE), the ALJ determined that during the relevant time
period, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an
insurance benefits clerk and payroll clerk. (Doc. 14, p. 22).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on August 5, 2015.
(Doc. 14, pp. 1-6). 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. 12, 13).
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.
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
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). 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 techniques.” 42
U.S.C. §§423(d)(3). A Plaintiff must show that her
disability, not simply her impairment, has lasted for at
least twelve consecutive months.
Commissioner's regulations require him to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant had engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant had a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) met or equaled an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevented the claimant from
doing past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant was
able to perform other work in the national economy given her
age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520
Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder
consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her ...