United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Nicholson (“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, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (“The Act”).
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. 5). Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
protectively filed her disability applications for DIB on
June 17, 2013, and for SSI on June 18, 2013. (ECF No. 11, pp.
18). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled
due to: hepatitis C; bulging and herniated discs in back;
anxiety; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”), edema; vertigo; hyperlipidemia;
neuropathy; and, depression. (ECF No. 11, p. 230). Plaintiff
alleges an onset date of May 31, 2013. (ECF No. 11, pp. 18,
226). These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (ECF No. 11, pp. 55-118).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
11, pp. 141-45). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was
held on October 22, 2014, in Arkansas. (ECF No. 11, pp.
36-54). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Mike
Sherman. Id. Plaintiff and VE Mac Welch testified at
this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was fifty-one (51) years old, which is defined as a
“person closely approaching advanced age” under
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(d), 416.963(d). (ECF No. 11,
p. 40). As for her level of education, Plaintiff earned a
high school diploma and completed classes to become a
certified nursing assistant (“CNA”). Id.
this hearing, on February 26, 2015, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 11, pp. 15-28). In this decision, the
ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Act through December 31, 2017. (ECF No. 11, p. 20,
Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since May
31, 2013, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 11, p. 20, Finding
2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: mild lumbar degeneration, COPD, obesity, major
depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”). (ECF No. 11, pp. 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,
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 11, pp. 23-27, 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:
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b)
and 416.967(b), except she is further limited in that she can
occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl, and kneel. In addition,
given her moderate limitations in social functioning and in
terms of concentration, persistence, and pace, [Plaintiff] is
able to perform work where interpersonal contact is routine
but superficial, where the complexity of tasks are learned by
experience with several variables, where judgment is within
limits, and which involves little supervision for routine
tasks and detailed supervision for non-routine tasks (i.e.,
[Plaintiff] is able to perform work at the semi-skilled
then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform her Past
Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 11, p. 27,
Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing
regarding this issue. (ECF No. 11, pp. 51-53). 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 personal care attendant, which has a DOT code of
309.674-014, with approximately three hundred thousand (300,
000) jobs in the national economy and four thousand (4, 000)
jobs in the regional economy, and as a companion, which has a
DOT code of 309.677-010, with approximately two hundred
thousand (200, 000) jobs in the national economy and three
thousand (3, 000) jobs in the regional economy. (ECF No. 11,
pp. 27-28, 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 May 31, 2013, through
February 26, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF
No. 11, p. 28, Finding 11).
on February 18, 2015, Plaintiff requested review of the
hearing decision by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 11, pp.
12-14). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on
March 30, 2016. (ECF No. 11, pp. 5-11). On April 25, 2016,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No.
1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court
on April 26, 2016. (ECF No. 5). This case is now ready for
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 ...