United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Manuel (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant
to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act
(“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006),
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. 7. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
filed applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 362). Plaintiff
alleged she was disabled due to bulging discs in the neck,
depression, anxiety, and migraines. (Tr. 126). Plaintiff
alleged an onset date of November 12, 2010. (Tr. 123). These
applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 362). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing on her applications and this
hearing request was granted. Id.
Plaintiff's initial administrative hearing on December
19, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision which was
reversed and remanded by the U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Oklahoma. (Tr. 9-21, 452-464). Following
remand, Plaintiff had an administrative hearing on January
26, 2017. (Tr. 407-428). Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, David Harp, at this hearing.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Debra Steele testified at this hearing.
Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was
thirty-three (33) years old and had a GED. (Tr. 410).
4, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 362-373).
In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Act through December 31,
2014. (Tr. 364, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since November 12, 2010. (Tr. 364,
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of disorder
of the spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety, depression,
and a personality disorder. (Tr. 364, Finding 3). The ALJ
then determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of
Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4
(“Listings”). (Tr. 365, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 366-371). 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 to perform sedentary work activity
except is able to frequently fingering, handling, and
reaching; occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop,
and crouch; and can perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks
in a setting where interpersonal contact is incidental to the
work performed, and where supervision is simple, direct, and
concrete. (Tr. 366, Finding 5).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 371, 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. 372, Finding 10). The ALJ based this
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 representative occupations
such as tube clerk with 205 such jobs in the state and 31,
255 such jobs in the nation, addressing clerk with 180 such
jobs in state and 30, 390 such jobs in the nation, and type
copy examiner with 150 such jobs in the state and 12, 225
such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this
finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability as defined by the Act from November 12, 2010,
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 373, Finding 11).
2, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The
Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF No.
7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 14.
This case is now ready for decision.
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. ...