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Fletcher v. Berryhill

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

May 3, 2018

CYNTHIA FLETCHER 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, Cynthia Fletcher, applied for disability benefits on January 9, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2012. (Tr. at 13). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (''ALJ'') denied her application. (Tr. at 21). 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] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Fletcher had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of January 9, 2015. (Tr. at 21). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Fletcher has the following severe impairments: COPD, obstructive sleep apnea, bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the knees, and obesity. Id.

         After finding that Fletcher's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 16), the ALJ determined that Fletcher had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except that: (1) she should not perform more than occasional stooping and crouching; (2) she could not be exposed to concentrated fumes, odors, or gases in the workplace; and (3) she could not have more than frequent handling responsibilities.

         The ALJ relied upon the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Fletcher's age, education, work experience and RFC, she could perform her past relevant work as a sorter at Goodwill. (Tr. at 20-21). Based on that Step Four determination, the ALJ held that Fletcher 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).

         It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is substantial evidence in the ...


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