United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. SETSER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sheila Martz, 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 claim 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.
filed her current application for DIB on April 1, 2013,
alleging an inability to work since March 1, 2013, due to
epilepsy. (Doc. 12, pp. 140-141, 171, 175). An administrative
hearing was held on January 22, 2014, at which Plaintiff
appeared with counsel, and she and her husband testified.
(Doc. 12, pp. 29-65).
written decision dated April 16, 2014, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe - epilepsy.
(Doc. 12, p. 18). 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. 12, p. 19).
The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
the claimant cannot climb ladders or ropes, but can
occasionally climb stairs and ramps. The claimant must avoid
hazards, including unprotected heights and heavy moving
machinery. The claimant is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks in a setting where interpersonal contact is
incidental to the work performed and can work under
supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete.
(Doc. 12, p. 19). 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
sales attendant, as well as perform other jobs, such as
inspector, assembler, and housekeeper. (Doc. 12, p. 22-24).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on July 31, 2015.
(Doc. 12, pp. 4-8). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this
action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned
pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both
parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready
for decision. (Docs. 10, 11). The Court has reviewed the
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. 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, abrogated on other
grounds by Higgins v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir.
2000); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
raises the following issues in this matter: 1) Whether the
ALJ erred in failing to consider the observations of SSA
employee M. Crouch or Plaintiff's Husband, Charles Martz;
2) Whether the ALJ erred by failing to fully and fairly
develop the record; and 3) Whether the ALJ erred by failing
to accord any ...