United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Arlene Bible, 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 claims for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under the provisions of Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(a)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). 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 her applications for DIB and SSI on
September 30, 2013. (ECF No. 11, pp. 18, 263, 293). In her
applications, Plaintiff alleges disability due to
Raynaud's disease, leg problems, a cyst, fainting, and
headaches. (ECF No. 11, p. 267). Plaintiff alleged an onset
date of January 1, 1999, which was amended at Plaintiff's
administrative hearing to July 1, 2013. (ECF No. 11, pp. 18,
57-58). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially
and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 11, pp. 67-124).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
11, pp. 177-82). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was
held on December 3, 2014, in Fayetteville, Arkansas (ECF No.
9, pp. 32-54). Plaintiff appeared in person and was
represented by John Williams. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Sarah Moore testified at
this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was fifty (50) years old, which is defined as a
“person closely approaching advanced age” under
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(d), 416.963(d). As for her
level of education, Plaintiff has earned a GED. (ECF No. 11,
this hearing, on August 28, 2014, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 11, pp. 15-29). In this decision, the
ALJ found Plaintiff continued to meet the insured status
requirements of the Act through September 30, 2014. (ECF No.
11, p. 20, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not
engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”)
since July 1, 2013, her amended alleged onset date (ECF No.
11, p. 20, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: major depressive disorder;
panic disorder; alcohol dependence; personality disorder NOS
(cluster B and C traits) and a history of Raynaud's
syndrome. (ECF No. 11, p. 20-21, 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. 11, pp. 21-23, Finding 4).
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 11, pp. 23-28, 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: [Plaintiff] must avoid
all exposure to extreme cold; [Plaintiff] can work where
interpersonal contact is routine but superficial, where the
complexity of tasks is learned by experience and where there
may be several variables; [Plaintiff] can use judgment within
limits; and [Plaintiff] can work where the supervision
required is little for the routine, but detailed for
Id. The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was able to
perform her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) as a
Cashier II. (ECF No. 11, pp. 28-29, Finding 6). The ALJ
therefore determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from July 1, 2013,
Plaintiff's amended alleged onset date, through January
23, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 11, p.
29, Finding 7).
on February 18, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the
Appeals Council (ECF. No. 11, pp. 13-14). The Appeals Council
denied this request on March 25, 2016. (ECF No. 11, pp.
5-11). On May 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal
with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on June 23, 2016. (ECF No. 7).
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 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), 1382c(a)(3)(D). A Plaintiff
must show that her disability, not simply her 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 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.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 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 ...