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Smith v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

June 26, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Patricia Dawn 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 a period of disability under Title II 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.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on May 15, 2014. (Tr. 13). In her application, Plaintiff alleges she was disabled due to cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis C, residuals from a car wreck in 2009, severe pain, depression, and hearing and vision issues. (Tr. 181). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 3, 2009. (Tr. 13). Plaintiff later amended her alleged onset date to April 1, 2014. Id. This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 59-96).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this request was granted. (Tr. 29-58). This hearing was held on June 10, 2016 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Id. At this administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Stacy McKisick testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was sixty (60) years old, which is defined as a “person of advanced age” under under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(e) (DIB), and she testified she completed one year of college. (Tr. 36).

         On August 5, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 10-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2014. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) during the time period from her amended alleged onset date of April 1, 2014 through her date last insured of December 31, 2014. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine. (Tr. 15-17, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 17-18, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 18-21, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b).


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). The ALJ determined that, through her date last insured, Plaintiff was capable of performing her PRW as a bartender. Id. Because Plaintiff retained this capacity, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not under a disability under the Act at any time from her alleged onset date of June 3, 2009 through December 31, 2014, the ALJ's decision date. (Tr. 21, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr.1-3). On July 21, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. Id. On August 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 24, 2017. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In 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 ...

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