United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
MICHAEL S. PRICHARD PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Michael S. Prichard, 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 claim 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 application for DIB on September 21,
2012. (ECF No. 8, p. 56). In his application, Plaintiff
alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease,
(“ADHD”), personality disorder, carpel tunnel
syndrome, depression, cervical spondylosis without
melanopathy, and cervical and lumbar radiculopathy. (ECF No.
8, p. 326). Plaintiff alleges an amended onset date of June
1, 2011. (ECF No. 8, pp. 56, 312). These applications were
denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 9,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied
application, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
9, pp. 251-74). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was
held on April 22, 2014, in Harrison, Arkansas (ECF No. 8, pp.
94-142). Plaintiff appeared in person and was represented by
Rick Spencer. Id. Plaintiff, Plaintiff's wife
Lauri Prichard, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jim
Spragins testified at this hearing. Id. At the time
of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-seven (47) years old,
which is defined as a “younger person” under 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c). As for his level of
education, Plaintiff attended some college courses but did
not earn a college degree. (ECF No. 8, p. 98).
this hearing, on May 14, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (ECF
No. 8, pp. 53-63). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff
last met the insured status requirements of the Act through
September 30, 2012. (ECF No. 8, p. 58, Finding 1). The ALJ
also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since June 1, 2011,
Plaintiff's amended alleged onset date. (ECF No. 8, p.
58, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the
following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the
thoracic spine with moderately reduced range of motion and
discomfort. (ECF No. 8, pp. 58-59, Finding 3). Despite being
severe, the ALJ determined this impairment 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. 8, p. 59, Finding 4).
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 8, pp. 59-63, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found his claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform “the full range
of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b)” Id. The ALJ then determined
Plaintiff was able to perform his Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) as an automobile salesman as it was
actually and generally performed. (ECF No. 8, p. 63). The ALJ
therefore determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from June 1, 2011,
Plaintiff's amended alleged onset date, through May 14,
2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 8, p. 63,
on June 23, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals
Council (ECF. No. 8, pp. 51-52). The Appeals Council denied
this request on May 24, 2016. (ECF No. 8, pp. 6-10). On June
5, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court.
(ECF No. 1). The parties consented to the jurisdiction of
this Court on June 7, 2016. (ECF No. 5). 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 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 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). 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 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(a)(4)(v).
sole issue raised by Plaintiff in his appeal is whether the
ALJ erred when he found Plaintiff suffered no severe mental
impairments. (ECF No. 12). At the outset, I note the relevant
period in this case is limited to June 1, 2011,
Plaintiff's amended alleged onset date, to September ...