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Cianflone v. Berryhill

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

January 4, 2018

JAMIE L. CIANFLONE PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Jamie L. Cianflone, applied for disability benefits on November 19, 2013, alleging her disability began on August 19, 2013. (Tr. at 12). Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Cianflone's application. (Tr. at 25). The Appeals Council later denied her request for review (Tr. at 1), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Cianflone has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Cianflone had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of disability, August 19, 2013, through her date last insured of March 31, 2015. (Tr. at 14). She worked five to seven days a week for five to six hours a day through the fall of 2014, but her work activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. Id. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Cianflone has the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia/myalgia/ arthralgia, hypertension, headaches/migraines, a history of syncope, major depressive disorder/depression (not otherwise specified), post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and pain disorder. Id.

         After finding that Cianflone's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 15), the ALJ determined that she had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work, except that: (1) she can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; (2) she must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including no driving as a part of work; and (3) she can only work where interpersonal contact with coworkers and supervisors is incidental to the work performed, there is no contact with the general public, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables and little use of judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. at 17).

         The ALJ found, at Step Four, that Cianflone was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 23). After hearing testimony from a Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that, based on Cianflone's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including work as a price marker and plastics molding machine tender. (Tr. at 24). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Cianflone 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 “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial 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, “merely 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 record as a whole which supports the decision of the ALJ. Miller, 784 F.3d. at 477.

         B. Cianflone's Arguments on Appeal

         Cianflone contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that: (1) the ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the record; (2) the ALJ erred ...


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