United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Paula Pierson, 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 claims for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits under the provisions of Titles
II and XVI 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. § 405(g).
protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on March
6, 2012. (ECF No. 13, p. 15, 181). In her applications,
Plaintiff alleges disability due to carpal tunnel syndrome,
nerve damage at C7 and L5, bipolar disorder, a right knee
injury, and hyperthyroidism. (ECF No. 13, p. 14, 202).
Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2010. (ECF No.
13, p. 14, 181). These applications were denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 13, pp. 86, 89, 98,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
13, p. 103). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held
on September 9, 2013, in Fort Smith, Arkansas (ECF No. 13,
pp. 35-81). Plaintiff appeared via video teleconference from
Fayetteville, Arkansas, and was represented by Greg Thurman.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Zach Langley testified at this hearing.
Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was
forty-six (46) years old, which is defined as a
“younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1563(c), 416.963(c). (ECF No. 13, p. 39). As for her
level of education, Plaintiff graduated with a high school
diploma. (ECF No. 13, pp. 39-40).
this hearing, on February 28, 2014, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 13, pp. 12-29). In this decision, the
ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Act through December 31, 2016. (ECF No. 13, p. 17,
Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since
January 1, 2010, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 13, p. 17,
Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease
of the right knee status post-surgery, degenerative disc
disease of the cervical spine status post-surgery, mild
osteoarthritis/degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post-right carpal
tunnel release surgery, bipolar disorder, and adjustment
disorder with mixed anxiety and depression. (ECF No. 13, pp.
17-18, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined
these impairments did not meet or medically equal the
requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in
Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Part 404 (“Listings”).
(ECF No. 13, pp. 18-19, Finding 4).
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 13, pp. 19-27, 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:
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except she is limited to no climbing, kneeling,
crouching, or crawling; only occasional balancing and
stooping; only occasional overhead work bilaterally; and
frequent but not constant handling and fingering bilaterally.
She must also avoid concentrated exposure to hazards,
including driving as part of work. The claimant is further
able to perform work involving simple, routine, repetitive
tasks, with incidental interpersonal contact and simple,
direct, and concrete supervision.
Id. at 19.
then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform her Past
Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 13, p. 28,
Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing
regarding this issue. (ECF No. 13, pp. 73-79). Based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant
numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform, such
as a call out operator, a bonder, semiconductor, and as a
surveillance system monitor. (ECF No. 13, pp. 28-29, Finding
10). Because jobs exist in significant numbers in the
national economy which Plaintiff can perform, the ALJ also
determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined by the Act, from January 1, 2010, through February
28, 2014, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 13, p.
29, Finding 11).
on April 24, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review by the
Appeals Council (ECF. No. 13, pp. 249-51). The Appeals
Council denied this request on September 10, 2015. (ECF No.
13, pp. 6-9). On November 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties
consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on November 12,
2015. (ECF No. 5). This case is now ready for decision.
Court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings. Vossen v.
Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). 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. Teague v. Astrue, 638
F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ's
decision if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858
(8th Cir. 2014). 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. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015). 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, we must affirm the ALJ's decision.
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), 1382c(a)(3)(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), ...