United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
ANDREA L. PATTON PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
recommended disposition has been submitted to United States
District Judge Kristine G. Baker. The parties may file
specific objections to these findings and recommendations and
must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection.
The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than
fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and
recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party.
The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may
reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole
or in part.
Patton, Plaintiff, has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny
her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concluded
she had not been under a disability within the meaning of the
Social Security Act, because she could perform some of her
past relevant work. (Tr. 52-70.)
review function is extremely limited. A court's function
on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record
as a whole and to analyze whether Plaintiff was denied
benefits due to legal error. Long v. Chater, 108
F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th
assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must
consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may
not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely
because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite
decision. Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th
history of the administrative proceedings and the statement
of facts relevant to this decision are contained in the
respective briefs and are not in serious dispute. Therefore,
they will not be repeated in this opinion except as
necessary. After careful review of the pleadings and evidence
in this case, I find the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and Plaintiff's
Complaint should be DISMISSED.
is fifty-six years old. (Tr. 111.) She is a high school
graduate and has past relevant work as home health attendant
and customer service representative. (Tr. 68.)
found Ms. Patton had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 20, 2015 - the alleged onset date. (Tr.
54.) She has “severe” impairments in the form of
fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, osteoarthrosis,
allied disorders and peripheral neuropathy. (Tr. 55.) The ALJ
further found Ms. Patton did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
determined Ms. Patton had the residual functional capacity to
perform a reduced range of light work. (Tr. 57.) He utilized
the services of a vocational expert to determine the demands
of Plaintiff's past relevant work. (Tr. 133.) Based on a
set of hypothetical questions posed to the vocational expert
(Tr. 133-136), the ALJ determined Ms. Patton could perform
her past relevant work as a customer service representative.
(Tr. 68.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Ms. Patton was not
disabled. (Tr. 69.)
Appeals Council received additional evidence but denied
Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's
decision, making his decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3.) Plaintiff filed the instant
Complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2.)
support of her Complaint, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to
develop the record by not ordering additional consultative
examinations. (Doc. No. 12 at 7-10.) The ALJ is permitted to
issue a decision without obtaining additional evidence as
long as the record is sufficient to make an informed
decision. E.g., Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742,
749 (8th Cir. 2001); Anderson v. Shalala, 51 F.3d
777, 779 (8th Cir. 1995). Here, there is ample evidence to
support the ALJ's decision. Moreover, Plaintiff is
reminded she had the burden of proving her disability.
E.g., Sykes v. Bowen, 854 F.2d 284, 285 (8th Cir.
1988). Thus, she bore the responsibility of presenting the
strongest case possible. Thomas v. Sullivan, 928
F.2d 255, 260 (8th Cir. 1991).
understand Plaintiff's point - that “The ALJ was
well aware that the mental RFC was going to be outcome
determinative in light of Plaintiff's age.” (Doc.
No. 12 at 9.) But the overall evidence of record supports the
ALJ's determination Ms. Patton had no
“severe” mental impairments - a determination
shared by Nick Rios, Psy.D., and Susan Daugherty, Ph.D. (Tr.
55, 144, 170-171.) A “severe” impairment is one
that significantly limits a claimant's physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities. Gwathney v.
Chater, 104 F.3d 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997);
Browning v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 817, 821 (8th Cir.
1992); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c) (2007). It has “more
than a minimal effect ...