United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lee Blanks (“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 application for a period of
disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act.
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. 10. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
protectively filed her disability application on July 17,
2013. (Tr. 55). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to primary open angel glaucoma, macular
degeneration, and hypertension. (Tr. 150). Plaintiff alleged
an onset date of July 16, 2013. (Tr. 55, 150). This
application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 55, 31-70, 73-74).
requested an administrative hearing on March 6, 2014. (Tr.
76). This hearing request was granted and Plaintiff's
administrative hearing was held on November 4, 2014. (Tr.
10-30). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by Michael Angel. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth Clem testified
at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff
testified she was fifty-one (51) years old, which is defined
as a “person closely approaching advanced age”
under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.963(d) (2008) (SSI). (Tr. 14). As for her
education, Plaintiff testified she had four years of college.
(Tr. 15, 151).
January 22, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 55-63). In this
decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the disability insured
status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2014.
(Tr. 57, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”)
from July 16, 2013, through last date insured of December 31,
2014. (Tr. 57, Finding 2).
then found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
glaucoma, macular degeneration, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
(Tr. 57, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined
those 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. 58, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 59-61, 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 RFC to perform work at all exertional
levels except she could not perform jobs requiring rapid,
repetitive flexion or extension of the wrists bilaterally;
cannot perform frequent fingering; must avoid hazards such as
unprotected heights, moving machinery, and open flames; and
has unlimited far acuity but limited near acuity and cannot
discern items smaller than large print. Id.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 61, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff not capable of performing her PRW. Id. The
ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 62, Finding 10). The ALJ based this
determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id.
Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's
vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able
to perform the requirements of representative occupations
such as cafeteria attendant with 1, 100 such jobs in Arkansas
and 140, 000 such jobs in the nation, and housekeeper with 2,
000 such jobs in Arkansas and 220, 000 such jobs in the
nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as
defined by the Act from July 16, 2013, through the date last
insured. (Tr. 62, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 8). On March 16, 2016,
the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr.
1-7). On April 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal.
ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos.
15, 16. This case is now ready for decision.
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 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. See 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 his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “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. §§