United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
TERESA F. ROGERS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
HONORABLE MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Teresa F. Rogers, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her claim for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 1382.
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).
filed her application for SSI on April 23, 2014, due to panic
disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, chronic
insomnia, problems with both knees, memory problems,
concentration problems, and learning problems. (ECF No. 8,
pp. 197, 212, 287-292, 311, 336-337). On December 15, 2015,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held an
administrative hearing. (ECF No. 8, p. 171-195). Plaintiff
was present and represented by counsel.
her filing date, Plaintiff was 50 years old and possessed a
general education equivalent. (ECF No. 8, pp. 38, 175, 312).
Although she had worked as a cashier, factory worker, and
teller, none of Plaintiff's work qualified as past
relevant work (“PRW”) experience. (ECF No. 8, p.
38, 313, 329-335).
April 22, 2016, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff's
post-trauma stress disorder (“PTSD”), panic
disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and borderline
personality traits were severe, but concluded they did not
meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in
Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (ECF No. 8, p. 31).
He then found Plaintiff capable of performing a full range of
work at all exertional levels with the following
non-exertional limitations: the claimant is limited to
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving only simple,
work-related decisions with few if any workplace changes and
no more than incidental contact with co-workers, supervisors,
and the general public. (ECF No. 8, p. 34). With the
assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff capable of performing work as a packing machine
operator, price marker, and plastics molding machine tender.
(ECF No. 8, p. 39).
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review
on May 12, 2017. (ECF No. 8, pp. 9-15). On July 11, 2017,
after receiving additional medical evidence, the Appeals
Council found no reason to reopen or change its May 2017
decision. (ECF No. 8, pp. 6-8). Subsequently, the Plaintiff
filed this action. (ECF No. 1). This matter is before the
undersigned for report and recommendation. Both parties have
filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision.
(ECF Nos. 12, 14).
Court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings. Vossen v.
Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638
F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ's
decision if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858
(8th Cir. 2014). If 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. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015). 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, we must affirm the ALJ's decision.
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
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. §
1382c(a)(3)(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. §
1382c(a)(3)(D). A Plaintiff must show that her disability,
not simply her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve
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. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
Only if he reaches the final stage does the fact finder
consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
raises four issues on appeal: (1) Whether the ALJ's step
two analysis is supported by substantial evidence; (2)
Whether the ALJ properly developed the record; (3) Whether
the ALJ conducted a proper credibility analysis; and, (4)
Whether the ALJ's RFC determination is substantially
contends that the ALJ erred at Step Two by failing to find
any of her physical impairments severe. At Step Two, a
claimant has the burden of providing evidence of functional
limitations in support of their contention of disability.
Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007).
“An impairment is not severe if it amounts only to a
slight abnormality that would not significantly limit the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Id. (citing Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 153 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1521(a)). “If the impairment would have no more
than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to work,
then it does not satisfy the requirement of step two.”
Id. (citing Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040,
1043 (8th Cir. 2007)).
present case, the ALJ found only Plaintiff's PTSD, panic
disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and borderline
personality traits to be severe. (ECF No. 8, p. 31). He
concluded that her DDD, CTS, bilateral knee pain, and
migraines were non-severe. Plaintiff now contends the ALJ
failed to properly consider her physical impairments, both
singularly and in combination. After reviewing the record,
however, the undersigned disagrees.
has a history of migraine headaches dating back to at least
2005, neck pain, and lower back pain resulting from a lifting
injury. (ECF No. 8, pp. 422-426, 512, 516, 521, 525,
530-531). Records reveal she was prescribed Topamax as a
prophylactic, which mitigated but did not eradicate the
headaches. (ECF No. 8, p. ...