United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
DONA A. PHENIS PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Phenis (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant
to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act
(“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her application for 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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
application for DIB was filed on December 30, 2012. (Tr. 17,
146-147). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to
migraines, depression, high blood pressure, back pain,
hernia, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 166). Plaintiff alleged an
onset date of November 24, 2010. (Tr. 167). This application
was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr.
17). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative
hearing on her application and this hearing request was
granted. (Tr. 105-106).
administrative hearing was held on February 10, 2014. (Tr.
31-67). Plaintiff was present and was represented by
attorney, Greg Thurman, at this hearing. Id.
Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Patricia
Kent, testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of
this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-one (41) years old, had
high school education and an associate degree in nursing.
11, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 17-27). In this
decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 19,
Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since
November 24, 2010. (Tr. 19, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of headaches,
migraines, hypertension, bipolar II disorder, and obesity.
(Tr. 19, Finding 3). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements
of any of the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart
P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 19,
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 21-25). First, the
ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform work at all exertional
levels except must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
cold, extreme heat, noise, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts,
gases, poorly ventilated areas, hazardous machinery, and
unprotected heights; can perform work where interpersonal
contact was routine but superficial; complexity of tasks was
learned by experience, with several variables, and use of
judgment within these limits; and supervision required was
little for routine, but detailed for non-routine work. (Tr.
21-22, Finding 5).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 25, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. Id. The ALJ
then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy. (Tr. 25, Finding 10). The VE testified at
the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based
upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) sales
attendant with 201, 507 such jobs in the nation and 1, 726
such jobs in the state, and (2) vacuum inspector with 44, 886
such jobs in the nation and 617 such jobs in the state
Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to
perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not
been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from November
24, 2010 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 26, Finding
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 11-13). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968.
The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 5-7). On October 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on October 27, 2015. ECF No. 5.
Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 8, 10. This
case is now ready for decision.
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
represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ
must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “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), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. ...