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Smith v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

March 16, 2017

JANICE SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. ERIN L. SETSER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Janice Smith, 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) under the provisions of Title II 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).

         I. Procedural Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her current application for DIB on October 26, 2012, alleging an inability to work since August 17, 2012, due to heart problems, Diabetes Type II, high blood pressure, restless leg, congestive heart failure, renal insufficiency, sleep apnea, anemia, and thyroid problems. (Doc. 13, pp. 75, 174). For DIB purposes, the ALJ found Plaintiff maintained insured status through December 31, 2012.[2] (Doc. 13, p. 25). An administrative video hearing was held on December 19, 2013, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 13, pp. 39-68).

         By written decision dated September 18, 2014, the ALJ found that through December 31, 2012, the date last insured, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Doc. 13, p. 27). Specifically, the ALJ found that through her date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: coronary artery disease status post-stenting; congestive heart failure; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; obesity; osteoarthritis; right calcaneal spurs; anemia; vertigo; hypothyroidism; and renal insufficiency. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Plaintiff's 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. 13, p. 28). The ALJ found that through the date last insured Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she could only occasionally climb ramps/stairs, could never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds, could only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch, could never crawl, and had to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including no driving as part of work.

(Doc. 13, p. 29). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a telephone order clerk and a telephone sales representative. (Doc. 13, pp. 33-34).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which granted Plaintiff's request for review on September 14, 2015. (Doc. 13, pp. 12-14). In a decision dated October 23, 2015, the Appeals Council adopted the ALJ's findings or conclusions regarding whether Plaintiff was disabled. (Doc. 13, pp. 5-11). The Appeals Counsel founds as follows:

The Administrative Law Judge's findings under steps one, two, three, and four of the sequential evaluation; namely, that the claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 17, 2012, that the claimant has severe impairments which do not meet or equal in severity an impairment in the Listing of Impairments, and that she is capable of performing past relevant work.
The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant was last insured through December 31, 2012 and determined that she was not disabled from the alleged onset date, August 17, 2012, through December 31, 2012 (Finding 1). However, the Appeals Council finds that the claimant was last insured through December 31, 2013. The Appeals Council also finds that the claimant was not disabled from January 1, 2013 through the date last insured, December 31, 2013.
The evidence currently of record from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 does not show a significant change in the claimant's condition during that time. Therefore, the Administrative Law Judge's findings are supported through December 31, 2013. The claimant was not disabled at any time through December 31, 2013.

(Doc. 9, pp. 8-10).

         Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 8). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 18, 19).

         The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, ...


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