United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Amy Cooper, 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 and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), disabled widow's benefits
(“DWB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) 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.
protectively filed her application for SSI on October 30,
2012, and her applications for DIB and DWB on December 5,
2012. (ECF No. 11, p. 103). In her applications, Plaintiff
alleges disability due to arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome
(“IBS”), diverticulitis, torn rotator cuff of the
dominant right shoulder, bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome,
bilateral knee injuries requiring surgery, bilateral hip and
feet problems, and general numbness and tingling. (ECF No.
11, p. 308). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 23,
2012. (ECF No. 1, pp. 103, 304). These applications were
denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 8,
pp. 103, 162-204).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
11, p. 223). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held
on February 12, 2014, in Fort Smith, Arkansas (ECF No. 11,
pp. 123-161). Plaintiff was present and was represented by
Frederick Spencer. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Sara Moore testified at this
hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff
was fifty-two (52) years old, which is defined as a
“person closely approaching advanced age” under
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(d), 416.963(d). (ECF No. 11,
pp. 123, 304). As for her level of education, Plaintiff has a
high school diploma. Id. at 130.
this hearing, on July 30, 2014, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB, DWB, and SSI. (ECF No. 11, pp. 100-17). In this
decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through March 31, 2008. (ECF No. 11,
p. 106, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff met the
non-disability requirements of the Act for DWB. (ECF No. 11,
p. 106, Finding 2). The ALJ found the prescribed period ended
on November 30, 2013. (ECF No. 11, p. 106, Finding 3). The
ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since September 23, 2012, her
alleged onset date. (ECF No. 11, p. 106, Finding 4). The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative joint disease, right shoulder impingement,
carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, knee pain, hip pain, feet
pain, and obesity. (ECF No. 11, pp. 106-08, Finding 5).
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. 11, pp. 108-09,
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 11, pp. 109-15, Finding 7).
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:
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except [Plaintiff] can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs;
[Plaintiff] can occasionally reach overhead with her right
upper extremity; [Plaintiff] can handle and finger on a
bilateral basis frequently; and [Plaintiff] is limited to
jobs that can be performed while using a hand held assistive
device for prolonged ambulation.
then determined Plaintiff was able to perform her Past
Relevant Work (“PRW”) as a bar and grill manager
and liquor store owner. (ECF No. 11, pp. 115-16, Finding 8).
The ALJ subsequently determined Plaintiff had not been under
a disability, as defined by the Act, from September 23, 2012,
through July 30, 2014, the date of the ALJ's decision.
(ECF No. 11, p. 116, Finding 9).
on August 7, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review by the
Appeals Council (ECF. No. 11, p. 99). The Appeals Council
denied this request on October 29, 2015. (ECF No. 11, pp.
5-10). On December 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The parties consented to
the jurisdiction of this Court on December 15, 2015. (ECF No.
6). 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.” ...