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Hankins v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 7, 2018

MELINDA D. HANKINS PLAINTIFF
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         I. Procedures for filing Objections:

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to District Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection.

         Your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation.

         If no objections are filed, Judge Wilson can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         II. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Melinda D. Hankins, applied for disability benefits on September 17, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2009. (Tr. at 19). Her date last insured was June 30, 2012, so the relevant time-period for review ends on that date. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Hankins's application. (Tr. at 27). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Hankins has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, this Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         III. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Hankins had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date through her date last insured. (Tr. at 21). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, that Hankins had the following medically determinable impairments: affective disorder, anxiety disorder, arthritis, sinusitis/cough, gastroesophageal reflux, and obesity. Id. The ALJ determined at Step Two that none of these impairments were severe, and therefore, held that Hankins was not disabled. (Tr. at 21-27).

         IV. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this context means less than a preponderance but more than a scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision." Id. (citation omitted). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision, however, “merely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision." Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         B. Hankins's Arguments on Appeal

         Hankins argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She contends that the ALJ failed to fully develop the record and that he should have found Hankins's mental impairments to be severe, notwithstanding Hankins's positive response to treatment. For the ...


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