United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
McChord (“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 in July 2013. (Tr.
29). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to due to a
broken wrist, knee pain, obesity, and deafness in right ear.
(Tr. 348). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 27,
2011. (Tr. 20). 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. 258).
administrative hearing was held on May 13, 2015. (Tr.
45-106). Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Greg Giles, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Harris Rowzie
testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this
hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-five (55) years old and was a
high school graduate, with some college. (Tr. 52-55).
November 20, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr.
20-38). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through June
30, 2013. (Tr. 23, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) from January 27, 2011, her alleged onset
date, through December 27, 2013. (Tr. 23, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
status-post right wrist fracture, hearing loss, obesity,
anxiety disorder, and affective disorder. (Tr. 23, Finding
3). The ALJ then determined prior to December 28, 2013,
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. 24, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 28-36). 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 to perform light work including
lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit, stand, or walk
for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; can handle with her right
upper extremity; can frequently kneel, crouch, and crawl;
understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine tasks;
use judgment to make simple work-related decisions; ability
to deal with changes in a work setting was limited to simple
work-related decisions; occasional interaction with
supervisors and coworkers, but no public contact; and time
off task is accommodated by normal breaks. Id.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 36, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW from January 27,
2011, through December 27, 2013. Id. The ALJ,
however, also determined there was other work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could
perform from January 27, 2011, through December 27, 2013.
(Tr. 37, 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 polish
cleaner with 394, 000 such jobs in the nation, bar attendant
with 495, 000 such jobs in the nation, and marker with 180,
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 January 27, 2011,
through December 27, 2013. (Tr. 38, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 6). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The
Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 1-3). On November 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction
of this Court on November 23, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 14. 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 and (B) in assessing
Plaintiff's RFC. ECF No. 11, Pgs. 3-17. In response, the
Defendant argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings.
ECF No. 14.
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