United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
CLIFTON GEORGE, on behalf of GWENDOLYN GEORGE, Deceased PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
George, on behalf of, Gwendolyn George
(“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”), Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), and a period of
disability under Titles II and XVI 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.
Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum
opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this
filed an application for DIB on September 2, 2013 and for SSI
on September 4, 2013. (Tr. 48). Plaintiff alleged she was
disabled due to congestive heart failure, high blood
pressure, and osteoarthritis. (Tr. 319). Plaintiff alleged an
onset date of August 28, 2013. (Tr. 48). These applications
were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr.
123-189, 194-201). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing on her applications and this hearing
request was granted. (Tr. 202-204).
administrative hearing was held on July 7, 2016. (Tr.
92-122). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Greg
Giles at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Melissa Brassfield testified at
this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty-three (43) years old and had a GED with
approximately 100 college hours. (Tr. 96-97).
August 11, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr.
48-64). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through
December 31, 2013. (Tr. 50, Finding 1). The ALJ also
determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since August 28, 2013. (Tr. 50,
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
nouischemic dilated cardiomyopathy; bilateral knee
degenerative joint disease, status post left total knee
arthroplasty in December 2013; lumbar spine degenerative disc
disease; and bilateral hip arthritis. (Tr. 50, Finding 3).
The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's impairments did not
meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the
Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of
Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 55, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 55-63). First, the
ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC with sedentary work and can
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
(Tr. 55, Finding 5).
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 63, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was not capable of performing her PRW. Id.
The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 63, 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 food and beverage order clerk with approximately 40,
000 such jobs in the nation and document scanner with
approximately 57, 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 August 28,
2013, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 64, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
unfavorable decision. (Tr. 258-259). See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this
unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-7). On September 12, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Clifton
George, the deceased Plaintiff's husband, brought this
appeal on behalf of his wife who died August 10, 2016, as a
result of hypertensive cardiovascular disease. (Tr. 1461).
The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF
No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13,
15. This case is now ready for decision.
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 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
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. ...