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Benson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

January 18, 2017

APRIL BENSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INSTRUCTIONS

         This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The District Judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         Plaintiff, April Benson, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny her claim for supplemental security income. Both parties have submitted briefs and the case is ready for a decision. After carefully considering the record as a whole, for the following reasons, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

         A court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996).

         In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993).

         Plaintiff was twenty-eight years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 33.) She testified she had an eleventh grade education. (Tr. 34.) She has past work as a restaurant worker and school laborer. (Tr. 165.)

         Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to back problems, lupus, and anxiety. (Tr. 164, 210.) The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found Ms. Benson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 1, 2013.[1] (Tr. 17.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had no “impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to significantly limit) the ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore, the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments.” (Tr. 17.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 22.)

         In support of her Complaint, Plaintiff argues the ALJ incorrectly concluded his analysis at step two and determined she did not have any “severe” impairments. (Pl.'s Br. 5-9.) She argues, “The ALJ's failure to find any impairment severe is harmful error, as it prevented the ALJ from proceeding with the rest of the required sequential evaluation. (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiff has the burden of proving her impairment is “severe.” See Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1995). To prove a severe impairment, a claimant must show she is significantly limited in her ability to do basic work activities. Browning v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 817, 821 (8th Cir. 1992). It has “more than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to work.” Hudson v. Bowen, 870 F.2d 1392, 1396 (8th Cir. 1989).

         A claimant's impairments are not severe when:

(a) Non-severe impairment(s). An impairment or combination of impairments is not severe if it does not significantly limit your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
(b) Basic work activities. When we talk about basic work activities, we mean the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most ...

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