United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MARY J. CALLANS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Callans (“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
Income 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 September 9, 2013. (Tr. 12).
Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to two dislocated
discs in her neck and back which are not operable. (Tr. 183).
Plaintiff alleged an onset date of March 8, 2011. (Tr. 146).
This application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 12). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing on her application and this hearing
request was granted. (Tr. 79).
administrative hearing was held on September 16, 2015. (Tr.
25-51). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel,
David Harp, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Debra Steele testified
at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was fifty-one (51) years old and a high school
education with two years of college. (Tr. 31).
October 13, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 12-20). In
this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff last met the
insured status of the Act on December 31, 2017. (Tr. 14,
Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged
in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since
March 8, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of back
disorder, cervical degenerative disc disease, left shoulder
strain, and hypertension. (Tr. 14, 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, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-18). 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 and can
frequently lift and carry ten pounds and occasionally twenty
pounds, can sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour
workday, and can stand and walk for a total of six hours in
an eight-hour workday, but is limited to jobs that require
only occasional reaching overhead bilaterally. (Tr. 15,
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was not capable of performing her PRW. Id.
The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 19, 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 case aide with 1, 430 such jobs in Arkansas and 132,
590 such jobs in the nation, security gate guard with 6, 360
such jobs in Arkansas and 605, 240 such jobs in the nation,
and usher with 100 such jobs in Arkansas and 11, 370 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 March 8, 2011, through the date of
the decision. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 5). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The
Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 1-3). On October 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction
of this Court. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal
briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. 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,