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Haeltine-McConkey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

February 14, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Mary K. Haeltine-Mcconkey (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), 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.


         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on May 1, 2014. (Tr. 9). Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to neck pain, back pain, spine pain, muscle problems, and heart problems. (Tr. 233). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 25, 2014. (Tr. 9). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 69-116).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 28-68). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 12, 2015 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Id. Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Donna Price, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Cola Brown testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-nine (39) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c)(2008) (SSI). (Tr. 33). As for her education, Plaintiff also testified at this hearing that she had completed high school. (Tr. 36).

         On October 15, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 6-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2017. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since March 25, 2014, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: cervical strain, personality disorder, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, and polysubstance abuse. (Tr. 11-13, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 13-14, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ also evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 14-20, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and allegedly disabling symptoms. Id. Second, the ALJ reviewed all the evidence in the record and hearing testimony and determined Plaintiff's RFC. Id. Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift, push, and/or pull ten pounds frequently with a maximum weight of twenty pounds. She can sit, stand, and/or walk for six hours of an eight-hour workday and one to two hours without interruption. (20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a)). The claimant is able to occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. Further, the claimant is able to work where complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment; she can understand, retain, and carry out simple instructions; and can perform work where contact with supervisors, co-workers, and public is superficial and limited to meeting, greeting, making change, and to giving simple instructions and directions.


         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 20-21, Finding 6). Plaintiff and the VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a cashier. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 6). Because she retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from March 25, 2014 through the date of his decision or through October 20, 2015. (Tr. 21, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. On December 29, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request. On February 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on March 3, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 14. 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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