United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Smith, (“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 application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act.
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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this
memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment
in this matter.
protectively filed her application for DIB on May 30, 2014
and SSI on June 16, 2014. (Tr. 11). In these applications,
Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to arthritis;
degenerative disc disease; herniated discs at ¶ 2-T2
posterior laminectomy and fusion; hypertension; depression;
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); shortness of
breath; wheezing; lymphedema; and right hand weakness and
balance. (Tr. 293). These applications were denied initially
and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 11).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that
hearing request was granted. (Tr. 186). Plaintiff's
administrative hearing was held on March 11, 2016. (Tr.
70-98). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Shannon Muse Carroll. Id.
Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth
Clem testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of
the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-three (53) years old and had
a high school education. Id.
31, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-24). In
this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015.
(Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had
not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since April 9, 2014. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
osteoarthritis, obesity, degenerative disc disease of the
cervical and lumbar spine, gout, history of nerve pressure
with fusion symptoms at the cervical spine, and depression.
(Tr. 13, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined
those 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. 14, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ 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 a light work except
could stand or walk for four hours and sit for six hours in
an eight-hour workday; could perform work involving
occasional work overhead bilaterally; occasional stopping,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling; could not perform work
around hazards such as unprotected heights or dangerous
moving machinery; and could perform work involving simple,
routine, tasks and have incidental contact with the public
and coworkers. Id.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not capable of performing any 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
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 cashier with approximately 300, 000 such jobs in the
nation and inspector with approximately 130, 000 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 April 9, 2014, through the date of
the decision. (Tr. 24, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 269-271). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-7). On July 10, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14, 15. This case is now
ready for decision.
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. ...