United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
CLINTON R. SMITH PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Clinton R. 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 his 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.
protectively filed his current application for DIB on May 23,
2013, alleging an inability to work since December 1, 2009,
to lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, leg pain and
depression. (Doc. 9, pp. 105, 183). For DIB purposes,
Plaintiff maintained insured status through December 31,
2013. (Doc. 9, pp. 12, 190). An administrative hearing was
held on July 1, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with
counsel and testified. (Doc. 9, pp. 28-58).
written decision dated December 3, 2014, the ALJ found that
prior to the expiration of his insured status Plaintiff had
an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe.
(Doc. 9. p. 14). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had
the following severe impairments: disorder of bilateral
shoulders, disorder of the cervical spine, and personality
disorder not otherwise specified. 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. 9, pp. 14-15). The ALJ
found that through the date last insured Plaintiff retained
the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except he
was limited to occasional overhead reaching bilaterally; and
occasional climbing of ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, occasional handling, fingering, feeling, pushing,
and pulling with bilateral upper extremities. The claimant
was limited to work involving simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, involving only simple, work-related decisions, with
few, if any, workplace changes, and no more than incidental
contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public.
(Doc. 9, p. 16). With the help of a vocational expert, the
ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Plaintiff
could perform work as a blending tank tender, a laminating
machine off-bearer, and a fruit distributer. (Doc. 9, pp.
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on February 23,
2016. (Doc. 9, p. 5). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this
action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned
pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 5). Both
parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready
for decision. (Docs. 10, 11).
Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of
facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs,
and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v.
Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). 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. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966
(8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747
(8th Cir. 2001). 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, the decision of the ALJ must be
affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th
well-established that a 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. § 423(d)(1)(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. § 423(d)(3). A Plaintiff
must show that his disability, not simply his impairment, has
lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.
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 his 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. §
404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the 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.