United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
MICHELLE R. THOMAS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Michelle R. Thomas, 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
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental
security income (SSI) under the provisions of Titles II and
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. §
protectively filed her current applications for DIB and SSI
on April 1, 2013, alleging an inability to work since
December 3, 2012, due to Hepatitis C, Barrett's
Esophagus, GERD, arthritis, back problems, high blood
pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, and left
ankle problems. (Doc. 9, pp. 73, 80, 91-92, 105-106). For DIB
purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured status through
September 30, 2017. (Doc. 9, pp. 80, 91). An administrative
hearing was held on August 14, 2014, at which Plaintiff
appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 9, pp. 36-72).
written decision dated January 9, 2015, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: Hepatitis C, Barrett's Esophagus,
GERD, dyslexia, disorder of the back, depression, anti-social
personality disorder, and obesity. (Doc. 9, p. 18). However,
after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's impairment 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. 19-21). The ALJ found that
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except the claimant is able to perform work where
interpersonal contact is routine but superficial. The
complexity of tasks is learned by experience with several
variables and judgment is within limits. Supervision required
is little for routine work but detailed for non-routine work.
(Doc. 9, pp. 21-27). With the help of a vocational expert
(VE), the ALJ determined that while Plaintiff was unable to
perform her past relevant work, she could perform work as a
machine tender, an inspector, and an assembler. (Doc. 9, p.
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on March 9, 2016.
(Doc. 9, pp. 5-8). 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.
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 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.
§§ 404.1520, 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. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.