United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
MARY B. MORGAN PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Morgan (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42
U.S.C. § 205(g) 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 decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her applications for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability
under Titles II and XVI of the Act.
Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate
judge to conduct 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
March 11, 2014, the Plaintiff protectively filed her
applications. (Tr. 208, 229-231). In her applications,
Plaintiff alleges she was disabled due to carpal tunnel
syndrome, spinal arthritis, and high blood pressure beginning
September 11, 2013. (Tr. 241). These claims were denied
initially on May 1, 2014, and upon reconsideration on August
26, 2014. (Tr. 143, 155).
Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on her
application and this application was granted. (Tr. 157, 172).
An administrative hearing was held on December 9, 2015, in
Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 81, 172). At the administrative
hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Greg Giles. (Tr. 81). Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Juanita Grant testified at this
hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff
testified she was sixty (60) years old, which is defined as a
“person of advanced age” under 20. C.F.R. §
416.963(e). (Tr. 86).
March 28, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on
Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 66). In this
decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 71,
Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since
September 11, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 71, Finding
2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: carpal tunnel syndrome, bilateral, and
degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 71-72, Finding 3). The ALJ,
however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 72, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 72-75, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined they were not entirely credible.
Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC for the following:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(b) except she can occasionally
stoop and crouch and should not be required to perform
manipulative functions continually. Id.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and determined she could perform her past
relevant work of supervisor in retail store, assistant
manager. (Tr. 75, Finding 6). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff had
not been under disability under the Act from September 11,
2013 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 75, Finding 7).
requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 65). On March 17,
2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's
disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed the
present appeal on April 6, 2017. ECF No. 1. The Parties
consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 7, 2017.
ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos.
11-12. 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. §423(d)(1)(A).
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. § 404.1520(a)-(f).
The fact finder only considers the plaintiff's age,
education, and work experience in light of his or her RFC if
the final stage of this analysis is reached. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).