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Johnson v. Colvin

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

November 29, 2016

MARY E. JOHNSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Mary Johnson (“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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and a period of disability 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 disability application for DIB on March 4, 2013 and for SSI on March 21, 2013. (Tr. 13, 193-202). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to hair loss, rheumatoid arthritis, borderline lupus, bone pain and walking with a limp. (Tr. 246, 300). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2012. (Tr. 13). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 13).

         After Plaintiff's applications were denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 141). Thereafter, on June 11, 2014, the ALJ held an administrative hearing on Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 35-66). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Donald Anderson testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-seven (57) years old, and graduated high school. (Tr. 40).

         On June 12, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 13-29). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2012, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 16, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairment of arthralgia. (Tr. 16, 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. 17, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 19-27). 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 light work. (Tr. 19, Finding 5).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 27, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff was capable of performing her PRW as a home health provider. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from January 1, 2012 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 28, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 9). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-7). On December 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 21, 2015. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 11. 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 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).

         It is 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. §§ ...


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