United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
TISHA L. PHIFER PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to Chief United
States District Judge Brian Miller. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
Tisha L. Phifer, applied for disability benefits on November
25, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of July 31, 2013.
(Tr. at 17). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at
26). 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. Phifer has requested
reasons stated below, the Court should affirm the decision of
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Ms. Phifer had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of July 31, 2013. (Tr.
at 19). At Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, the
ALJ found that Ms. Phifer has the severe impairment of
degenerative disc disease. Id.
found that Ms. Phifer's impairment did not meet or equal
a listed impairment. (Tr. at 20). Before proceeding to Step
Four, the ALJ determined that Phifer had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at
the sedentary level, except she would have to avoid constant,
repetitive bending. Id.
next found that Ms. Phifer was able to perform past relevant
work as a warehouse worker, waitress, and telemarketer. (Tr.
at 25). The ALJ made an alternative finding at Step Five. He
relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
("VE") to find that, considering Ms. Phifer's
age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that she could
perform. (Tr. at 25-26). Therefore, the ALJ found
that Ms. Phifer was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review The Court's function on review is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole
and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v.
Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial
evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial
evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to
engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:
“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record
for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the
Commissioner's decision; we also take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from that
decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however,
“merely because substantial evidence would have
supported an opposite decision.” Reed v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations
not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an
independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision
of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which
contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole which supports
the decision of the ALJ. Miller, 784 F.3d at 477.
The Court has reviewed the entire record, including the
briefs, the ALJ's decision, and the transcript of the
Phifer's Arguments on Appeal
Phifer contends that substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that: 1)
the ALJ erred by not conducting the Psychiatric Review
Technique (“PRT”); and 2) he did not give proper
weight to the opinion of treating physician, Dr. Mike Umerah,
M.D. After ...