United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
PAULETTE E. MCCLENDON PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Paulette E. McClendon, 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) 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 her current application for DIB on July 9,
2013, alleging an inability to work since January 1, 2013,
to diabetes, COPD, a leaky heart valve, high blood pressure,
incontinence, nerve damage in the legs, carpal tunnel,
Bell's palsy, a swollen knee after standing and sleep
apnea. (Doc. 12, pp. 104, 178). An administrative hearing was
held on September 22, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with
counsel and testified. (Doc. 12, pp. 34-102).
written decision dated May 29, 2015, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe. (Doc. 12, p.
23). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with mild, chronic
axonal sensory peripheral neuropathy; osteoarthritis of the
hips and left knee; obesity; hypertension; angina pectoris;
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
history of bilateral ulnar nerve surgery; and history of
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. However, after
reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff's impairments 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. 12, p. 24). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except she is limited to frequent, but not constant,
reaching, handling and fingering bilaterally. Further, she
must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts,
gases, and poor ventilation.
(Doc. 12, p. 25). With the help of a vocational expert, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work
as a proof reader/data clerk. (Doc. 12, p. 29).
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied that request on June 24, 2016.
(Doc. 12, p. 5). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action.
(Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the
consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). 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. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her ...