United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Farmer (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant
to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act
(“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this
case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a
final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings.
ECF No. 7. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
applications for DIB and SSI were filed on February 7, 2014.
(Tr. 8, 199-213). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to
due to anxiety; bipolar depression; chronic diarrhea;
difficulty sleeping; history of substance abuse; low back and
hip degenerative joint disease; major depressive mood
disorder; destructive fits of anger and cursing; an inability
to communicate with others; an inability to leave the house
or be in public; and a fear of bathtubs, showers, and other
water sources. (Tr. 247). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of
April 16, 2013. (Tr. 8). These applications were denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. Id.
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on
her applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr.
administrative hearing was held on April 20, 2015. (Tr.
36-62). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel,
Sherri McDonough, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Charles Turner testified
at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty-two (42) years old and was a high school
graduate, with some college. (Tr. 38-39).
August 14, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr.
8-22). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31,
2018. (Tr. 10, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since April 16, 2013, her alleged onset
date. (Tr. 10, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of back pain,
anxiety, and depression. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). The ALJ then
determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of
Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4
(“Listings”). (Tr. 11, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 13-20). First, the
ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC for sedentary work, except can
only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, bend, crouch, kneel,
or crawl; and restricted to work where interpersonal contact
is incidental to the work performed; complexity of tasks is
learned and performed by rote with few variables and little
judgment; and supervision required is simple, direct, and
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. Id. The
ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 21, finding 10). The ALJ based this
determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id.
Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's
vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able
to perform the requirements of representative occupations
such as assembly work with 160, 000 such jobs in the nation
and inspecting work with 200, 000 such jobs in the nation.
Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the
Act from April 16, 2013, through the date of the decision.
(Tr. 21, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 28). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968.
The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 1-4). On October 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on October 25, 2016. ECF No. 7.
Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 12. This
case is now ready for decision.
reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,
292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough
that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,
240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Haley v.
Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “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), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the
plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light
of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is
reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
brings the present appeal claiming the ALJ erred: (A) by
failing to find Plaintiff met a Listing, (B) in his
credibility determination, and (C) in assessing
Plaintiff's RFC. ECF No. 11, Pgs. 7-20. In response, the
Defendant argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings.
ECF No. 12.
must determine whether Plaintiff has a severe impairment that
significantly limits the physical or mental ability to
perform basic work activities. A medically determinable
impairment or combination of impairments is severe if it
significantly limits an individual's physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1521 and 416.921.
found Plaintiff did suffer from impairments considered to be
severe within the meaning of the Social Security regulations.
These impairments included back pain, anxiety, and
depression. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). However, there was no
substantial evidence in the record showing Plaintiff's
condition was severe enough to meet or equal that of a listed
impairment as set forth in the Listing of Impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.1. Plaintiff
has the burden of establishing that her impairment(s) meet or