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Elrod v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division

November 13, 2017

RONNIE C. ELROD PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Ronnie C. Elrod, applied for supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”) on March 24, 2014, alleging his disability began on June 1, 2012. (Tr. at 10). His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ") denied his application. (Tr. at 20). The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Elrod has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[2] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         This is an SSI claim only, which means that the relevant period begins on March 24, 2014, the application date, and runs through the date of the hearing decision, September 10, 2015. (Tr. at 11).

         The ALJ found that Elrod had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date (Tr. at 13). At Step Two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Elrod has the following severe impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema, degenerative disc disease, and arthritic pain in the hands and hips. Id.

         After finding that Elrod's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 13), the ALJ determined that Elrod had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work, except that: (1) he could only occasionally bend, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, and balance; (2) he would not be able to tolerate excessive exposure to dust, smoke, fumes, and other pulmonary irritants; (3) he would be limited to frequent fingering and handling in the upper extremities; and (4) he could perform work that is simple, routine, and repetitive with supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. at 14). Next, the ALJ found that Elrod was not capable of performing any past relevant work. (Tr. at 19). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Elrod's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform at the light level with the added limitations, specifically, cashier II and product assembler. (Tr. at 20). Based on that Step Five determination, the ALJ held that Elrod was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While Asubstantial evidence" is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, Asubstantial evidence on the record as a whole" requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision." Reversal is not warranted, however, Amerely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision."

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is substantial evidence in the ...


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