United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Rhonda Sue Hendon, 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 her 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 her current application for SSI on April
23, 2013, alleging an inability to work since May 12, 2012,
due to the following conditions: removal of a portion of her
colon, back pain, and depression. (Doc. 9, pp. 95, 111). An
administrative hearing was held on June 27, 2014, at which
Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 9, pp.
written opinion dated November 14, 2014, the ALJ found that
the Plaintiff had severe impairments of partial colon
removal, degenerative disc disease, pain disorder, adjustment
disorder with depressed mood and amphetamine abuse in
remission. (Doc. 9, p. 17). After reviewing the evidence in
its entirety, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of
any listed impairments described in Appendix 1 of the
Regulations (20 CFR, Subpart P, Appendix 1). (Doc. 9, pp.
17-19). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except the
claimant can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to
temperature extremes and fumes, odors, dust, gases and poorly
ventilated areas. The claimant can frequently handle and
finger bilaterally. She is able to perform work where
interpersonal contact is routine but superficial; complexity
of tasks is learned by experience, several variables,
judgment within limits. Supervision required is little for
routine but detailed for non-routine.
(Doc. 9, p. 19). With the help of a vocational expert (VE),
the ALJ determined that during the relevant time period,
Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as
a waitress. (Doc. 9, p. 27).
on December 4, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review of the
hearing decision by the Appeals Council. (Doc. 9, p. 11). The
Appeals Council denied her request on February 3, 2016. (Doc.
9, pp. 5-9). Plaintiff then filed this action on March 25,
2016. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant
to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both parties have
submitted briefs, and the case is now ready for decision.
(Docs. 10, 11).
Court has reviewed the transcript in its entirety. The
complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent
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 her disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has
lasted at least one year and that prevents her 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), 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. §
423(d)(3). A Plaintiff must show that her disability, not
simply her 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 her age,
education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her 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.