United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Hickman, (“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”) under Title II of 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. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this
memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment
in this matter.
protectively filed her application for DIB on December 8,
2014. (Tr. 10). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to severe depression, severe anxiety, decision
making, trouble concentrating, and fibromyalgia.. (Tr. 171).
This application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 10). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted.
administrative hearing was held on May 11, 2016. (Tr. 39-61).
At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Travis Morrissey. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dale Thomas testified at
the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing,
Plaintiff was fifty-one (51) years old and had a high school
education. (Tr. 42-43).
the hearing, on June 29, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr.
10-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Act through December
31, 2019. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) from September 22, 2014 through the last
date inured. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).
also found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
fibromyalgia/joint pain, migraine headaches, major depressive
disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. (Tr. 12, Finding
3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those
impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements
of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to
Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr.
12, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform medium work but was
limited to unskilled work including making simple
work-related decisions; interpersonal contact that was
incidental to the work performed; where supervision required
was simple, direct, and concrete; and she could understand,
retain, and carry out simple instructions. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
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. 22, 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 dishwasher/kitchen helper with approximately 166, 000
such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this
finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Act, from September 22, 2014,
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 22, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 145-148). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On September 25, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 22, 23. This case is now
ready for decision.
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. ...