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Maness v. Colvin

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

January 24, 2017

DIANE MANESS PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER

         Diane Maness (“Maness”) applied for social security disability benefits with an alleged disability onset date of July 31, 2010. (R. at 253). Maness later amended the disability onset date to July 6, 2012. (R. at 230-31). The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) denied benefits to Maness after a hearing, and the Appeals Council denied review. (R. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Maness has requested judicial review.[1]

          For the reasons stated below, the Court affirms the ALJ's decision.

         I. The Commissioner's Decision

         The ALJ held that Maness had the severe impairments of osteoarthritis, breast cancer status post mastectomy, hypertension, and depression. (R. at 192). The ALJ then determined that, through the date last insured, Maness had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except that she must be limited to work where: interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; the complexity is of one to two step tasks that would be learned by rote with few variables and little judgment; the supervision would be simple, direct, and concrete; and work is limited to SVP 1 or 2 jobs that can learned within 30 days. (R. at 195). The ALJ took testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”) and determined that Maness could not return to any of her past relevant work. (R. at 199). However, the VE testified that Maness could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as motel cleaner or inspector. (R. at 200). Thus, the ALJ held that Maness was not disabled. (R. at 201).

         II. Discussion

         Maness argues that the ALJ erred in failing to consider whether she should have been considered to be in a higher age category. She further contends that the ALJ's physical RFC determination is not supported by substantial evidence in the record.

         The 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 whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however, “merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         A. Maness's Age Category Argument is Without Merit

         Maness's date of birth is September 22, 1959. (R. at 253). As of her date last insured, she was approximately nine months from her fifty-fifth birthday. (R. at 253). Maness argues that, because this places her in a “borderline situation” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(b), the ALJ was bound to consider whether to use the “advanced age” category rather than the “approaching advanced age” category. According to Maness, if the ALJ had used the advanced age category, she would be disabled under Medical-Vocational Rule 202.04 or 202.06. 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 2.

         As the Commissioner notes, however, the Eighth Circuit has held that eight months is “too distant” to be borderline. Byes v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 913, 917-18 (8th Cir. 2012). Thus, Maness's age was “too distant” from the advanced age category to be considered borderline.

         B. Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ's Physical RFC Determination

         Maness also argues that, because there is no opinion from a treating or examining physician, the ALJ impermissibly drew his own inferences from the medical records in determining that Maness had the RFC for light work. As a result, Maness argues ...


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