United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
LILLIE E. NORWOOD PLAINTIFF
NANCY BERRYHILL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Norwood (“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”) under Title II 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.
application for DIB was filed on January 3, 2014. (Tr. 11).
Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to asthma, back
problems, right knee and ankle problems, and carpal tunnel
syndrome. (Tr. 145). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of June
25, 2011, which was later amended to January 23, 2013. (Tr.
11). This application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. Id. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing on her application and this hearing
request was granted. (Tr. 81).
administrative hearing was held on October 14, 2015. (Tr.
25-46). 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-two (52) years old and had a high school
education with some college. (Tr. 29-30).
January 13, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 11-21). In
this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Act through December 31,
2014. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) from January 23, 2013, through December
31, 2014. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of obesity,
degenerative joint disease of the right knee, degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, and a history of carpal tunnel syndrome.
(Tr. 13, 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. 15,
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16-18). 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, except
cannot kneel; can only reach, handle, finger, and stoop for
two thirds of a workday; and must avoid environmental
irritants. (Tr. 16).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 18, 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. 18, 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 fast food worker with 21, 000 such jobs in Arkansas
and 2, 692, 000 such jobs in the nation, cashier with 29, 000
such jobs in Arkansas and 3, 054, 000 such jobs in the
nation, and fast food worker with 18, 000 such jobs in
Arkansas and 2, 244, 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 23, 2013, through the date last insured of
December 31, 2014. (Tr. 19, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The
Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 1-5). On March 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction
of this Court on March 20, 2017. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have
filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 13. This case is now ready
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. ...