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McAlister v. Colvin

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

January 12, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Cynthia D. McAlister (“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 a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on December 19, 2012. (Tr. 17). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to arthritis, hypoglycemia, irritable bowel syndrome, dizziness, fatigue, and blackouts. (Tr. 178). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of November 9, 2011. (Tr. 17). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 77-85).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 32-73, 101-102). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 28, 2014 in Russellville, Arkansas. (Tr. 32-73). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Lauren McKinnon. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Sarah Moore testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-nine (59) years old, which is defined as a “person of advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(e). (Tr. 37). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had graduated from high school. Id.

         On September 18, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB application. (Tr. 14-26). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 19, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since November 9, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 19, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia syndrome/generalized osteoarthritis; hypothyroidism; hypertension; allergies; asthma; insomnia; obesity; and a history of seizures/syncope. (Tr. 19-22, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those impairments 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. 22-23, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 23-25, 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, fumes, odors, dust, gases, poor ventilation and hazards (with no work around unprotected heights or dangerous machinery), including no driving as part of work requirements.


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 25-26, Finding 6). Considering her limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a machine operator and motor tester. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from November 9, 2011 through the date of his decision or through September 18, 2014. (Tr. 26, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. On October 9, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On December 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 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 ...

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