United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
William Barnard, 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 his claim for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
provisions of Title 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. § 405(g).
protectively filed his application for SSI on June 4, 2013.
(ECF No. 9, pp. 19, 189). In his application, Plaintiff
alleges disability due to lower back injury, protruding and
herniated disks, and pain and numbness in his legs. (ECF No.
9, p. 193). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 21,
2012. (ECF No. 9, pp. 19, 189). This application was denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 9, pp.
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied
application, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
9, pp. 92-95). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was
held on May 8, 2014, in Fort Smith, Arkansas (ECF No. 9, pp.
32-54). Plaintiff appeared in person and was represented by
Nick Coleman. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Tanya Owen testified at this hearing.
Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was
twenty-three (23) years old, which is defined as a
“younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §
416.963(c). As for his level of education, Plaintiff has a
high school diploma. (ECF No. 9, pp. 37-38).
this hearing, on August 28, 2014, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for
SSI. (ECF No. 9, pp. 15-26). In this decision, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since June 4, 2013, Plaintiff's
application date. (ECF No. 9, p. 21, Finding 1). The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
Musculoskeletal Disorder (Back Disorder, degenerative disc
disease) (7240) and Obesity (2780). (ECF No. 9, p. 21,
Finding 2). 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. 9,
pp. 21-22, Finding 3).
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 9, pp. 22-25, Finding 4).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found his claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform, “the full range
of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(a).”
Id. The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had no Past
Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 9, p. 25, Finding
5). Based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, the ALJ determined Medical-Vocational Rule 201.27
directed a finding of “not disabled.” (ECF No. 9,
p. 25, Finding 9). The ALJ therefore determined Plaintiff had
not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from June
4, 2013, Plaintiff's alleged onset date, through August
28, 2014, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 9, p.
25, Finding 10).
on October 27, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review by the
Appeals Council (ECF. No. 9, p. 10). The Appeals Council
denied this request on November 17, 2015. (ECF No. 9, pp.
5-9). On January 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal
with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on February 3, 2016. (ECF No. 5).
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 his disability by establishing a physical
or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and
that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful
activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217
(8th Cir. 2001); See also 42 U.S.C. §
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.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(D). A Plaintiff must show that his disability,
not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing
past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to
perform other work in the national economy given his age,
education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4). Only if she reaches the final stage does the
fact finder consider Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of his residual functional capacity.
See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th
Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.
raises three issues on appeal: 1) the ALJ improperly
discredited Plaintiff's subjective complaints; 2) the ALJ
improperly relied on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines; and
3) the ALJ committed reversible error in ...