United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Julie Sizemore, 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 claim for a period of
disability, 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. § 405(g).
protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on May 8,
2013. (ECF No. II, p. 37). In her applications, Plaintiff
alleges disability due to arthritis, diabetes, bulging disc,
depression, and anxiety. (ECF No. 10, p. 258). Plaintiff
alleges an onset date of May 2, 2013. (ECF No. 11, pp. 37,
226). These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (ECF No. 11, pp. 84-131).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No.
11, pp. 149-55). Plaintiffs administrative hearing was held
on June 3, 2014, in Fort Smith, Arkansas (ECF No. 11, pp.
53-82). Plaintiff appeared via video teleconference and was
represented by Nicholas Coleman. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert ("VE") Jim Spragins testified at
this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as
a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1563(c), 416.963(c). As for her level of education,
Plaintiff completed the seventh grade. (ECF No. 11, p. 60).
this hearing, on September 26, 2014, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiffs applications for DIB
and SSI. (ECF No. 11, pp. 33-47). In this decision, the ALJ
found Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of
the Act through December 31, 2017. (ECF No. 11, p. 39,
Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 2,
2013, Plaintiffs alleged onset date. (ECF No. 11, p. 39,
Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: Musculoskeletal Disorders (Back Disorder,
degenerative disc disease) (7240) and (Osteoarthritis, knee
post surgery) (7150). (ECF No. 11, pp. 39-41, 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, p. 41, Finding
then considered Plaintiffs Residual Functional Capacity
("RFC"). (ECF No. 11, pp. 41-415, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs subjective complaints and
found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible.
Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except as follows: [She] can
frequently lift and/or carry less than ten pounds and
occasionally ten pounds, push and/or pull within the limits
for lifting and carrying, sit for a total of six hours in an
eight hour workday, and stand and/or walk for a total of at
least two hours in an eight hour workday. [She[ cannot climb
ladders, scaffolds, or ropes. [She] can occasionally climb
ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl.
[She] is limited to jobs that can be performed while using a
hand held assistive device for prolonged ambulation.
Id. The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was unable to
perform her Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (ECF No.
11, p. 45, Finding 6). Based on Plaintiffs 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 small product assembler or
document preparer. (ECF No. 11, p. 46, Finding 10). The ALJ
therefore determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from May 2, 2013,
Plaintiffs alleged onset date, through September 26, 2014,
the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 11, p. 46,
on November 25, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review by the
Appeals Council (ECF. No. 11, pp. 31-32). The Appeals Council
denied this request on December 11, 20215. (ECF No. 11, pp.
5-12). On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The parties consented to
the jurisdiction of this Court on March 1, 2016. (ECF No. 7).
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 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), 1382c(a)(3)(D). A Plaintiff
must show that her disability, not simply her 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
impairments) 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), 416.920(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 ...