United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas
Diane D'Amico, applied for disability benefits on October
15, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of September 9,
2014 (Tr. at 27). After conducting a hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (AALJ) denied her application. (Tr.
at 39). The Appeals Council denied her request for review.
(Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner, and D'Amico has requested
reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that D'Amico had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of September 9, 2014.
(Tr. at 29). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential
five-step analysis, that D'Amico has the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease, peripheral
neuropathy, essential hypertension, osteoarthritis, and
Three, the ALJ determined that D'Amico's impairments
did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 30).
Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that
D'Amico had the residual functional capacity
(ARFC”) to perform work at the sedentary level, except
that she could only frequently reach or handle. (Tr. at 31).
Four, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
("VE") to find that, based on D'Amico's
age, education, work experience and RFC, she could return to
past relevant work as security officer. (Tr. at 38). Based on
that determination, the ALJ held that D'Amico was not
Standard of Review
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this
context means less than a preponderance but more than a
scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th
Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
ALJ's decision.” Id. (citation omitted).
The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports
a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision,
however, “merely because substantial evidence exists
for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater,
108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v.
Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).
D'Amico's Arguments on Appeal
contends that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that the ALJ
should have found depression to be a severe impairment and
that the RFC exceeded her functional capacity. For the
following reasons, the Court finds that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's decision.
depression, the record reflects D'Amico did complain of
depressive symptoms during the relevant time-period, although
on her initial application, she did not allege depression
prevented her from working. (Tr. at 309). See Partee v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 864 (8th Cir. 2011)(in affirming
ALJ's finding of no mental impairment, the court noted
that claimant did not allege mental impairment on the
application for benefits). At the initial interview, she did
not have problems in understanding or answering questions.
(Tr. at 333). In October and November 2014, a depression
screen was negative and her appearance was normal and
appropriate. (Tr. at 411-413, 446). A lack of clinical
findings may support an ALJ's decision to deny benefits.
Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 2001).
D'Amico had a consultative medical examination in
December 2014, she was alert and cooperative and did not
appear depressed or anxious. (Tr. at 458). She was able to
communicate and had good insight and cognitive function.
Id. She stated she was independent in household
activities of daily living. (Tr. at 457). In February 2015, ...