United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
HONORABLE ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Michele Ray Yerby, 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 supplemental security
income benefits (SSI) under the provisions of Title 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 current application for SSI on
February 28, 2013, alleging an inability to work since
November 1, 2012, due to hepatitis C, ovary problems-back
problems, nervous problems - shake all the time, depression,
anxiety problems, isolation problems, insomnia,
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leg cramps, chest
pain, numbness in her fingers all the time, and bronchitis.
(Doc. 9, pp. 53, 140-145, 172, 175). An administrative
hearing was held on February 20, 2014, at which Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 9, pp. 35-52).
written decision dated July 10, 2014, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe - PTSD and
panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Doc. 9, p. 22). However,
after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiffs 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. 9, p. 23). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: work limited to
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, involving only simple,
work-related decisions, with few, if any, workplace changes,
and no more than incidental contact with co-workers,
supervisors, and the general public.
(Doc. 9, p. 24). With the help of the vocational expert (VE),
the ALJ determined that during the relevant time period,
Plaintiff could perform such jobs as hand packer and machine
packer. (Doc. 9, p. 29).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on August 26,
2015. (Doc. 9, 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 (8* 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 (8* 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
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.
§416.920. Only if the final stage is reached does the
fact finder consider the Plaintiffs 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. §416.920, abrogated on other
grounds by Higgins v. Apfel 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir.
2000); 20 C.F.R. §416.920.
raises the following issues in this matter: 1) Whether the
ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinions of the
consulting examining physicians of record; 2) Whether the ALJ
failed to comply with SSR 96-7p and 16-3p by failing to
consider the statement of Social Security Field Agent J.
Wells; 3) Whether the implementation of SSR 16-3p requires
remand; and 4) Whether the ALJ committed error in not finding
Plaintiffs morbid obesity a severe impairment. (Doc. 10).