United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
NEDRA C. HARRIS PLAINTIFF
NANCY BERRYHILL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
C. Harris (“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 applications 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. 5. 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 October 27, 2011.
(Tr. 299-308). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to
nerve damage, brain contusion, cervical disc disease, sleep
apnea, high blood pressure, obesity, lumbago, and depression.
(Tr. 364). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 26, 2011.
(Tr. 13). These applications were denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 188-194). Thereafter, Plaintiff
requested an administrative hearing on her applications and
this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 204).
initial hearing was November 8, 2012 which resulted in an
unfavorable decision entered by the ALJ on October 2, 2014.
(Tr. 127-153, 161-182). Plaintiff subsequently requested
review by the Appeals Council which remanded the claim
January 5, 2015. (Tr. 183-187).
second administrative hearing was held on July 14, 2015. (Tr.
87-126). Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Greg Giles, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mary May testified
at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty-two (42) years old with a high school
education and vocational training as a licensed practical
nurse. (Tr. 92-93).
October 8, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr.
13-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31,
2014. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since May 26, 2011, her alleged onset
date. (Tr. 16, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairment of morbid
obesity, minimal cervical spondylosis, lumbar spondylosis,
depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 16, 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. 16, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 18-21). 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 as follows:
to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday and sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She has no
limits in her ability to push and/or pull within the weight
limits for lifting and carrying. She can frequently climb
ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes and scaffolds and frequently
balance. She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl.
She is limited to simple, routine tasks and simple
work-related decisions. She is limited to the performance of
tasks where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work
performed, e.g. assembly work.
(Tr. 37, Finding 5).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 21, 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. 22, 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 housekeeper with 877, 000 such jobs in the nation,
mail sorter with 116, 000 such jobs in the nation, assembler
with 250, 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 May 26, 2011,
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 9). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The
Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 1-7). On December 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction
of this Court on December 21, 2016. ECF No. 5. 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,