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Cato v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

March 27, 2017

BERNICE CATO PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Bernice Cato (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), 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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on May 9, 2013. (Tr. 10). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to bladder mesh problems with multiple surgeries, mental anxiety, diabetes, gout, and plantar fasciitis. (Tr. 246). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 30, 2013. (Tr. 10). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 66-121).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications. (Tr. 138-141). This request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on June 30, 2014 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 27-65). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Susan Brockett. Id. Plaintiff and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-eight (38) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 30). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she graduated high school and attended some college. (Tr. 30).

         On February 25, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 7-22). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 30, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, back disorder, bladder disorder, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. (Tr. 12-13, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of 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 evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 14-20, 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 capacity to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she can only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. In addition, she can perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks in a setting where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed. She requires supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete.

Id.

         Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 6). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21-22, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 27-65). Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative sedentary occupations such as the following: (1) inspector/checker with 160 such jobs in Arkansas and 13, 600 such jobs in the national economy; (2) check weigher with 164 such jobs in Arkansas and 13, 646 such jobs in the national economy; and (3) and shoe buckler/lacer with 170 such jobs in Arkansas and 36, 000 such jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 21). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from April 30, 2013 through the date of his decision or through February 25, 2015. (Tr. 22, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 5). On March 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On April 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 5, 13-14. 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) (2010); 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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