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Williams v. Berryhill

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

February 22, 2018

SHAMEKA WILLIAMS on behalf of J.M.W. PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. Any party may serve and file written objections to this recommendation. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that finding and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and one copy of your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations.[1] The copy will be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in a waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.[2]

         If you are objecting to the recommendation and also desire to submit new, different, or additional evidence, and to have a new hearing for this purpose before either the District Judge or Magistrate Judge, you must, at the time you file your written objections, include the following:

1. Why the record made before the Magistrate Judge is inadequate.
2. Why the evidence to be proffered at the new hearing (if such a hearing is granted) was not offered at the hearing before the Magistrate Judge.
3. The details of any testimony desired to be introduced at the new hearing in the form of an offer of proof, and a copy or the original of any documentary or other non-testimonial evidence desired to be introduced at the new hearing.

         From this submission, the District Judge will determine the necessity for an additional evidentiary hearing. Mail your objections and “Statement of Necessity” to:

Clerk, United States District Court Eastern District of Arkansas 600 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A149 Little Rock, AR 72201-3325

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         I. BACKGROUND

         After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) rendered a decision on August 26, 2016, finding Plaintiff's son was not disabled. (Tr. 12-27.) The ALJ found J.M.W. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equaled a listed impairment. (Id.) When the Appeals Council concluded on September 18, 2017, that no basis existed for review of the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final administrative decision subject to judicial review. (Tr. 1-4); See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Therefore, on September 25, 2017, Ms. Williams filed the instant Complaint asking for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. No. 2.) Ms. Williams says there was “no breakdown of why [her] son's case was denied” and she feels “the decision was based on errors. . . .” (Id. at 3.)

         After the Commissioner answered (Doc. No. 8), the Court directed Ms. Williams to file a brief by January 15, 2018, to fully identify her allegations of error. (Doc. No. 10.) When Ms. Williams did not respond, the Court directed her to file her brief by February 17, 2018. (Doc. No. 12.) The Order cautioned Ms. Williams that her case could be dismissed if she failed to file a brief.[3] Ms. Williams has not filed anything in response to the Court's orders.

         Given Ms. Williams's lack of attention to this case, dismissal for failure to prosecute this matter is appropriate. However, out of an abundance of caution, I have reviewed the Commissioner's decision and the agency record to determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision and whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards.[4] For the following reasons, I find substantial evidence supports the decision; the Commissioner made no legal error.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The role of the Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the Commissioner, and not to re-weigh the evidence or try the issues de novo.[5] If substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings and they are conclusive, the Court should affirm them.[6] Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[7] The Court may not reverse a prior determination based only on a finding that substantial evidence would support an opposite decision.[8]Consequently, the Court's review of this case is limited and deferential to the Commissioner.[9]

         In determining whether an impairment or combination of impairments functionally equals a listing, the ALJ must have assessed the claimant's functioning in terms of six domains: (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating items; (5) caring for himself; and (6) health and physical well-being.[10]

         To functionally equal a listed impairment, the plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments must result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain.[11] Plaintiff has the burden of proving disability.[12] A claimant must meet all of the specified medical criteria of the particular listing.[13] The standard for medical equivalency is similarly demanding. In order to equal a listing, plaintiff must present medical findings equal in severity to all the criteria of the listed impairment.[14]

         After careful consideration of the record and pleadings in this case, I find the decision of the Commissioner is ...


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