United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
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.
reasons stated below, the Court reverses the ALJ's decision
and remands for further review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
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).
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.
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.
Standard of Review
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
“[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)
Decker's Arguments on Appeal
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