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Jordan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

June 8, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT



         Jennifer Lynn Jordan (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“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).[2] 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 application for DIB on August 1, 2013. (ECF No. 10, p. 29). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to soto seizures, high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines, depression, racing heart, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. (ECF No. 10, p. 248). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of October 26, 2009. (ECF No. 10, pp. 29, 257). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 10 pp. 144-78).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 10 p. 186-87). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 23, 2014, in Little Rock, Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, pp. 118-43). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Mary Thomason. Id. Plaintiff, Plaintiff's mother Charlotte Williams, and vocational expert (“VE”) Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-eight years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). (ECF No. 10, p. 121). As for her level of education, Plaintiff earned a high school diploma. Id.

         After this hearing, on April 3, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (ECF No. 10, pp. 26-39). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2014. (ECF No. 10, p. 31, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since October 26, 2009, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 10, p. 31, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: migraine headaches, pseudoseizures, depression, anxiety, and diabetes. (ECF No. 10, p. 31, Finding 3). 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. 10, pp. 31-33, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 33-37, 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:

a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations. She can occasionally stoop, crawl and kneel but must avoid work requiring climbing or balancing. She must avoid exposure to extreme heat and loud noise. Due to pseudoseizures, [Plaintiff] should avoid working at unprotected heights or around moving or dangerous machinery. [Plaintiff] retains the ability to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed. Incidental is defined as interpersonal contact requiring a limited degree of interaction, such as meeting and greeting the public, answering simple questions, accepting payment and making change. The complexity of tasks can be learned by demonstration or repetition within 30 days, with few variables, requires little judgment and the supervision required is simple, direct and concrete.


         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 10, p. 37, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 10, pp. 140-43). Based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform, such as a cashier, which has a DOT code of 211.462-010, with approximately two hundred thousand (200, 000) jobs in the national economy and approximately one thousand one hundred (1, 100) jobs in the state of Arkansas, and as a food order clerk, which has a DOT code of 209.567-014, with approximately fifteen thousand (15, 000) jobs in the national economy and approximately one hundred (100) jobs in the state of Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, p. 38, Finding 10). Because jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy which Plaintiff can perform, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from October 26, 2009, through December 31, 2014. (ECF No. 10, p. 38, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, on April 13, 2015, Plaintiff requested review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 10, p. 24). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on June 7, 2016. (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-9). On July 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on July 14, 2016. (ECF No. 5). 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 to support 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).

         It is 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). 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. §§ ...

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