United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Beth Patterson (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security
Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this
case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a
final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings.
ECF No. 6. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI benefits
on August 25, 2014. (Tr. 15). Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to due to migraines, anxiety, depression, and
bipolar disorder. (Tr. 371). Plaintiff alleges an onset date
of April 20, 2013. (Tr. 15). These applications were denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. Id.
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on
her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr.
administrative hearing was held on December 6, 2016. (Tr.
31-52). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present
and was represented by counsel, Iva Nell Gibbons.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Jim B. Spragins testified at this hearing.
Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was fifty
(50) years old and had a Masters Degree. (Tr. 36).
February 17, 2017, subsequent to the hearing, the ALJ entered
an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's applications. (Tr.
15-24). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff
met the insured status of the Act through June 30, 2018. (Tr.
17, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not
engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”)
since April 20, 2013. (Tr. 17, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had severe impairments of migraines,
chronic bipolar disorder, most recent episode depressed;
ruled out substance-induced mood disorder; and
methamphetamine dependence. (Tr. 17, Finding 3). The ALJ also
determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of
Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4
(“Listings”). (Tr. 18, Finding 4)
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (Tr. 19-22, Finding 5). First, the ALJ
indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints
and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible.
Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC for work at all exertional levels, but must avoid
concentrated exposure to noise, and is able to work in jobs
where the complexity of task is learned by rote with few
variables and little judgment required; the interpersonal
contact is incidental to the work performed; and the
supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. Id.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. Id. The
ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 23, Finding 10). The ALJ based his
determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id.
Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's
vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able
to perform the requirements of a representative occupation
such as a hospital housekeeper with approximately 72, 000
such jobs in the nation and 700 such jobs in Arkansas, food
service worker with approximately 58, 000 such jobs in the
nation and 500 such jobs in Arkansas, and light duty price
marker with approximately 496, 000 such jobs in the nation
and 4, 300 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. Based upon
this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under
a disability as defined by the Act from April 20, 2013,
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 10). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968.
The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 1-3). On May 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have
filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 10. This case is now ready
reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,
292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough
that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,
240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is
substantial evidence in the record that supports the
Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it
simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that
would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court
would have decided the case differently. See
Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir.
2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to draw
two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of
the ALJ must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221
F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “physical or mental impairment” as
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. ...