United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
RHONDA A. SIMMONS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rhonda A. Simmons, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her claims for supplemental security
income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Title XVI of
the Social Security Act (Act). In this judicial review, the
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the administrative record to support the Commissioner's
decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
protectively filed her current application for SSI on
February 28, 2014, alleging an inability to work due to
bipolar disorder, scoliosis, migraines, back pain,
depression, a generalized anxiety disorder, impulsive
problems, anger issues and numbness and tingling in her arms
and hands. (Tr. 103, 182). An administrative hearing was held
on April 9, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel
and testified. (Tr. 68-101). By written decision dated March
29, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 28, 2014, the
application date. (Tr. 42). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the
following medically determinable impairments: an anxiety
disorder, a depressive disorder, back pain, headaches, and a
history of fracture to the fourth and fifth fingers of the
left hand. However, after reviewing all of the evidence
presented, the ALJ determined:
the claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to
significantly limit) the ability to perform bask work-related
activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore, the claimant
does not have a severe impairment or combination of
then requested a review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council, which after reviewing additional evidence
submitted by Plaintiff denied that request on May 12, 2017.
(Tr. 1-7). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc.
1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the
consent of the parties. (Doc. 7). Both parties have filed
appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs.
Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of
facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs,
and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v.
Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966
(8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747
(8th Cir. 2001). In other words, 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. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th
well-established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has
lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging
in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Act defines
“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). A Plaintiff
must show that her disability, not simply her impairment, has
lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing
past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is able to
perform other work in the national economy given her age,
education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her residual functional capacity.
See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th
Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.
sequential evaluation process may only be terminated at step
two when the impairment or combination of impairments would
have no more than a minimal effect on Plaintiff's ability
to work. Nguyen v. Chater,75 F.3d 429, 431 (8th