United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Salazar (“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 April 17, 2014.
(Tr. 13). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to problems
with her arms, legs, and back; arthritis; bronchitis;
breathing problems; high blood pressure; and depression. (Tr.
241). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of September 1, 2013,
which was later amended to October 31, 2014. (Tr. 13, 36).
These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 68-157). Thereafter, Plaintiff
requested an administrative hearing on her applications and
this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 158-159).
administrative hearing was held on August 12, 2015. (Tr.
32-67). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel,
Sherri McDonough, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Kola Brown testified at
this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty-three (43) years old and obtained a GED.
(Tr. 36, 39).
September 21, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr.
13-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Act through September
31, 2018. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since October 31, 2014, the amended onset
date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of morbid
obesity, asthma, lower back pain, and left ankle injury. (Tr.
15, 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. 17,
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 for sedentary work with occasional
climbing, crouching, kneeling, and crawling; occasional
overhead reaching for no more than one-third of the day; no
balancing, climbing ladders or scaffolds, or exposure to
unrestricted heights; no work in temperature extremes or
around heavy or excessive chemicals, dust, or fumes; limited
to unskilled work where interpersonal contact is incidental
to work performed; the complexity of tasks is learned and
performed by rote, with few variables and little judgment
required; and supervision is simple, direct, and concrete.
(Tr. 18, 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 document preparer with 45, 000 such jobs in the
nation and callout operator with 20, 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 October 31, 2014, through the date of
the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 8-9). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968.
The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 1-7). On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of the Court on October 11, 2016. ECF No. 5.
Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 12. This
case is now ready for decision.
reviewing this case, the 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. ...