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Jefferson v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

October 17, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Linda Jefferson (“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 a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI 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. 7.[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 DIB and SSI applications on October 19, 2009. (Tr. 11, 200-212). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to muscle spasms in back, knee and shoulder problems, arthritis, numbness in fingers, and blood pressure. (Tr. 245). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 11, 2011. (Tr. 11, 200, 207). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 11). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 144). Plaintiff's hearing was held on June 2, 2014. (Tr. 58-82). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-two (52) years old and had a ninth grade education but also obtained her GED. (Tr. 63).

         On October 17, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-26). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2014. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 7, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: obesity, arthritis, hypertension, shoulder problems, muscle spasms in her back, congestive heart failure, and degenerative joint disease in her hands and knees. (Tr. 13, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that 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. 14, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-25, 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 RFC to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b).


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”), and the ALJ found Plaintiff would be unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 25, Finding 6). The ALJ then evaluated whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 25, Finding 10). In making this determination, the ALJ applied the Medical-Vocational Guidelines or “The Grids.” Id. Specifically, the ALJ applied Rule 202.17 and 202.10 of the Grids. Id. These rules directed a result of “not disabled.” Id. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from her alleged onset date of September 7, 2011 through date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 26, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeal Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision, and, on October 5, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On November 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 17, 2015. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 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 draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions ...

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