United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jones, (“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 Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI 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. 6. 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 SSI on January 25,
2012. (Tr. 398). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to spondylosis, left leg nerve damage, high
blood pressure, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and
diabetes. (Tr. 461). This application was denied initially
and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 21). Thereafter,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that
hearing request was granted. (Tr. 295).
April 25, 2013, Plaintiff had her initial administrative
hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 203-230). On June 21, 2013, the
ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr.
260-279). The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's decision and remanded the case to
the ALJ for further consideration. (Tr. 280-284).
second administrative hearing was held on October 14, 2015.
(Tr. 172-202). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Nick Coleman. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Katrina Mason
testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the
hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-two (32) years old and had a
high school education. (Tr. 177-178).
the hearing, on February 9, 2016, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for
SSI. (Tr. 21-36). In this decision, ALJ determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since January 25, 2012. (Tr. 23, Finding
1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: hypertension, noninsulin dependent diabetes
mellitus, degenerative disk disease at the L5-S1 level with
anterior spondylosis, obesity, depression, and anxiety. (Tr.
23, Finding 2). 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. 23, Finding 3).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 26-34). 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 light work, except she could only do work
with simple tasks and simple instructions and incidental
contact with the public. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 34, Finding 5). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not able to perform any of her PRW.
Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 35, Finding 9). 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 bottling line attendant with
approximately 65, 000 such jobs in the nation and 450 in
Arkansas, bakery racker with approximately 59, 000 such jobs
in the nation and 1, 600 in Arkansas, and housekeeper with
approximately 414, 000 such jobs in the nation and 3, 200 in
Arkansas. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined in the Act, since May 27, 2014. (Tr. 35-36, Finding
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 392-397). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-7). On July 28, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 14. 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. ...