United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tammy Louise Spears, 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 claims for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental
security income benefits (SSI) under the provisions of Titles
II and XVI 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.
filed her current applications for DIB and SSI on January 3,
2012, and February 15, 2012, respectively, alleging an
inability to work since March 9, 2010,  due to arthritis,
right leg pain, left leg pain, low back pain, nerve pain,
asthma, and high blood pressure. (Doc. 10, pp. 146-156, 170).
An administrative hearing was held on January 10, 2013, at
which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc.
10, pp. 53-80).
written decision dated May 31, 2013, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe -
hypertension, osteoarthritis of the hips, knees, and ankles,
asthma and migraine headaches. (Doc. 10, p. 42). 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. 10, p. 43). The ALJ found Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except that she can reach overhead only
occasionally and must work in a controlled environment and
avoid exposure to dust, fumes, smoke and temperature
10, p. 43). 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 a
receptionist and personnel scheduler. (Doc. 10, p. 47).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on June 12, 2015.
(Doc. 10, pp. 5-10). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this
action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned
pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 5). Both
parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready
for decision. (Docs. 8, 9).
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 Cir. 2000).
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, 416.920. Only if the final stage is
reached does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff's
age, education, and work experience in light of her RFC.
See McCoy v. Schneider, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42
(8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R.§§ 404.1520,
416.920, abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
reviewing the records, the Court finds this matter should be
remanded to the Commissioner. In this case, the ALJ
considered the Physical RFC Assessment of non-examining
physician, Dr. Jerry Thomas, who concluded that Plaintiff
would be able to perform light work, but could not climb
ladders, ropes and scaffolds. (Doc. 10, p. 45). The ALJ gave
little weight to Dr. Thomas' opinion, because he stated
it did not give adequate consideration to Plaintiff's