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Toye v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

October 6, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Heather Toye (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), and a period of disability.

         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.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on October 17, 2012. (Tr. 13, 147-157). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis in three vertebrae. (Tr. 212). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 47-66).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 100-113). This hearing was held on August 28, 2013 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 27-46). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Jack Willems. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Patti Kent testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-one (31) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 32). As for her education level, Plaintiff testified she had completed college and completed vocational school and was trained as a massage therapist. (Tr. 32).

         On May 2, 2014, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 10-20). The ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2014. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 7, 2012, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease/curvature of her spine, headaches, and hypertension. (Tr. 15-16, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairment did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr.16, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16-19, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the light work:

(b) Light work. Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. Even when the weight lifted may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good deal of walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls. To be considered capable of performing a full or wide range of light work, you must have the ability to do substantially all of these activities. If someone can do light work, we determine that he or she can also do sedentary work, unless there are additional limiting factors such as loss of fine dexterity or inability to sit for long periods of time.


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 19-20, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff's PRW included work as a receptionist, license clerk, and cashier. Id. Considering her RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform all of her PRW. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from August 7, 2012 (application date) through May 2, 2014 (ALJ's decision date). Id.

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 8-9). Thereafter, on July 29, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On September 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 9, 12. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In 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) (2010); 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 ...

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