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Ford v. Berryhill

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

February 23, 2018

SHELIA FORD PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge J. Leon Holmes. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection.

         Your objections must be received in the office of the Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation.

         If no objections are filed, Judge Holmes can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         On February 6, 2013, Shelia Ford applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning February 2, 2011. (Tr. at 10) Ms. Ford's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 22) The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Ms. Ford has requested judicial review. For the reasons stated below, the Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Ford had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of February 2, 2011. (Tr. at 12) At Step Two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Ford has the following severe impairment: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, arthritis, obesity, hearing disorder, degenerative joint disease, sleep disorder, status post left ulnar nerve surgery, degenerative disc disease, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Id.

         After finding that Ms. Ford's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 13), the ALJ determined that Ms. Ford had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with additional limitations. Id. She could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and could only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; she was limited to frequent use of her hands to handle and finger; she needed the option to stand for 5 minutes after sitting for 20 minutes throughout the workday; she would have to avoid even moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dust, gases, poor ventilation, and similar irritants; and she was limited to jobs where there is no requirement of frequent verbal communication, frequent telephone communication, or complex verbal communication. Id.

         The ALJ next found that Ms. Ford was unable to perform past relevant work. (Tr. at 21) At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Ms. Ford's age, education, work experience and RFC, she was capable of performing work in the national economy as a document preparer. (Tr. at 21-22) Based on the determination, the ALJ held that Ms. Ford was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). "Substantial evidence" in this context means “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support he ALJ's decision.” Id; Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009)(citation omitted). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision, however, "merely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision." Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         B. Ms. Ford's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Ford contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. Her sole argument is that the job identified by the VE (document preparer) has been rendered obsolete by today's technology, so the Step Five finding that she could perform work in the national economy was error. After ...


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