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Day v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

August 29, 2017

JUDY M. DAY PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Judy M. Day, 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. § 405(g)

         I. Procedural Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her current application for DIB on August 20, 2013, alleging an inability to work since November 26, 2012, due to a fracture and compression of the vertebrae and depression. (Tr. 13, 54, 141). An administrative video hearing was held on December 18, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 28-52).

         By written decision dated August 18, 2015, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 15).

         Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a compression fracture of her thoracic spine, degenerative disc disease, osteopenia, hypertension, obesity, diabetes mellitus, a depressive disorder, not otherwise specified, and an anxiety disorder, NOS.

         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. (Tr. 16). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, push and/or pull within those limitations, stand/walk six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. In addition, she can occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes and scaffolds, stoop and crouch. She is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is routine but superficial and where the complexity of tasks is learned by experience with several variables and judgment within limits. The supervision required is little for routine but detailed for non-routine. She is limited to jobs that do not require complex written communication.

(Tr. 18). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an office worker/general office worker. (Tr. 23).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on July 12, 2016. (Tr. 1-6). 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. 12, 13).

         The 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.

         II. Applicable Law:

         This 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 Cir. 2000).

         It is 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 ...


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