United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
RAYMOJEAN D. LEE PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Raymojean D. Lee, 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) under the provisions
of Title II 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.
protectively filed her current application for DIB on July
26, 2012, alleging an inability to work since March 12, 2012,
due to protruding/bulging cervical discs with severe neck
pain, a spinal cord injury, asthma, and chronic headaches.
(Doc. 14, pp. 84, 186). An administrative video hearing was
held on November 5, 2013, at which Plaintiff appeared with
counsel and testified. (Doc. 14, pp. 47-83).
written decision dated April 9, 2014, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe. (Doc. 14, p.
35). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, asthma, and
obesity. 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. 14, p. 36).
The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except she cannot climb ropes or ladders or perform overhead
work. She is able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
crawl, stoop, kneel and crouch but must avoid moderate
exposure to pulmonary irritants.
(Doc. 14, p. 36). With the help of a vocational expert, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work
as a dispatcher. (Doc. 14, p. 40).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which after reviewing additional evidence
submitted denied that request on August 7, 2015. (Doc. 14, p.
6). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This
case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the
parties. (Doc. 8). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and
the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 11, 13).
Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of
facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs,
and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.
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
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),
1382c(a)(3)(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), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show
that her disability, not simply her impairment, has lasted
for at least twelve consecutive months.
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing
past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is able to
perform other work in the national economy given her age,
education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her residual functional capacity.
See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th
Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.