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James v. Colvin

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

January 19, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT



         Dawn James (“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 applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), 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 applications on November 22, 2011 (DIB) and December 6, 2011 (SSI). (Tr. 11). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to Hepatitis C; Raynaud syndrome; manic depression; acid reflux; “hands get cold easily and turn blue, white, black”; and past suicide attempts. (Tr. 232). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 17, 2011. (Tr. 11). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 74-77).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 26-73, 97). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on June 5, 2013 in Russellville, Arkansas. (Tr. 26-73). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by John Miller. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) John Massey testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-nine (49) years old. (Tr. 30). This age qualifies as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 30). As for her education, Plaintiff also testified she had completed high school. Id.

         On June 27, 2014, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 8-20). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2016. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 17, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic rheumatic disease, Raynaud's disease, hepatitis C and history of right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair. (Tr. 13-16, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff's 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. 16, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 16-20, 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 capacity to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she must avoid all exposure to extreme cold, and she is unable to perform any jobs which involve handling or preparing food products.


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff's PRW included work as an administrative clerk and data entry clerk. Id. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this PRW. Id. Accordingly, 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 June 17, 2011 through the date of his decision or through June 27, 2014. (Tr. 20, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On December 31, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on January 5, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 12. 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) (2006); 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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