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Morrison v. Berryhill

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

April 3, 2018

MELISSA MORRISON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Melissa Morrison, applied for disability benefits on September 10, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of September 5, 2014. (Tr. at 12). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (AALJ@) denied Morrison's application. (Tr. at 25). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] reverses the ALJ's decision and remands for further review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Morrison had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of September 5, 2014. (Tr. at 14). Morrison worked after the alleged onset date but this work activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. Id. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Morrison has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease with back pain, anxiety, and depression. (Tr. at 15).

         After finding that Morrison's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 15), the ALJ determined that Morrison had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except that: (1) she can only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, bend, crouch, kneel, or crawl; and (2) she can perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. a 17).

         The ALJ found that, based on Morrison's RFC, she was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 23). However, relying upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that, based on Morrison's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including positions as a motel cleaner, and machine tender. (Tr. at 24). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Morrison was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. 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 omitted).

         B. Morrison's Arguments on Appeal

         Morrison contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that: (1) the ALJ erred by not finding carpal tunnel syndrome and hand pain to be a severe impairment;[2] and (2) the RFC did not incorporate all of Morrison's limitations. For the reasons explained below, the ...


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