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Decker v. Berryhill

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

April 5, 2018

OLA DECKER 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, Ola Decker, applied for disability benefits on November 28, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of October 7, 2014. (Tr. at 19). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Decker's application. (Tr. at 35). 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 Decker had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of October 7, 2014. (Tr. at 21). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Decker has the following severe impairments: chronic liver disease, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve entrapment in the left arm, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. (Tr. at 22).

         After finding that Decker's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 22), the ALJ determined that Decker had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except that: (1) she can only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; (2) she can frequently, but not constantly, handle with her upper extremities; (3) she cannot have concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, dust, fumes, or other pulmonary irritants; and (4) she can perform simple, routine tasks with occasional changes in a routine work setting. (Tr. at 25).

         The ALJ found that, based on Decker's RFC, she was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 34). However, relying upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that, based on Decker's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including positions as a mail clerk and a routing clerk. (Tr. at 35). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Decker 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. Decker's Arguments on Appeal

         Decker contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that: (1) the ALJ erred by not finding her back condition to be a severe impairment; and (2) the RFC did not incorporate all of Decker's ...


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