United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
JANIE M. NEEL PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Janie M. Neel, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions
of Title II of the Social Security Act (Act). In this
judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is
substantial evidence in the administrative record to support
the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C.
protectively filed her application for DIB on September 14,
2014, alleging an inability to work since June 10, 2014, due
to depression, anxiety, PTSD, back injury, bone fragments in
hips, sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism. (Tr. 242-248, 288,
289). Plaintiff meets last insured status through December
31, 2019. (Tr. 39). An administrative hearing was held on
April 21, 2016, at which plaintiff appeared with counsel and
testified. (Tr. 62-103).
written decision dated June 3, 2016, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe - status post
right ankle arthroscopic surgery; cervical, thoracic, and
lumbar degenerative disc disease; history of thoracic spine
compression fracture; degenerative joint disease;
sacroiliitis; obesity; obstructive sleep apnea; chronic pain
syndrome; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; hypothyroidism;
hip osteoarthritis; gastroesophageal reflux disease; cannabis
abuse; depressive disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder;
generalized anxiety disorder; and borderline personality
disorder. (Tr. 39). However, after reviewing all of the
evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the severity of any
impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in
Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 16). The ALJ
found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
[P]erform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.157(a) and
416.967(a), except the claimant can occasionally bend, stoop,
kneel, and crouch; never crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; occasional exposure to dust, fumes, smoke, or
chemicals; and she can understand, remember, and carry out
more than simple instructions and tasks, but no complex
instructions or tasks.
(Tr. 44). With the help of the vocational expert (VE), the
ALJ determined that during the relevant time period,
Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant
work, but would be capable of performing work as an
informational clerk, general clerk, or order clerk. (Tr.
Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before
the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc.
5). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is
now ready for decision. (Docs. 12, 13).
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirex v.
Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a
reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966
(8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747
(8th Cir. 2001). In other words, 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. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has
lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging
in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.
2001; see also 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A). The Act
defines “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). A Plaintiff must show that her
disability, not simply her impairment, has lasted for at
least twelve consecutive months.
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant had engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant had a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) met or equaled an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevented the claimant from
doing past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant was
able to perform other work in the national economy given her
age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her RFC. See McCoy v.
Schneider, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982);
20C.F.R. SS404.1520, abrogated on other grounds by
Higgens v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20
raises only one issue in this matter: whether the ALJ erred
in her RFC determination. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred
by concluding that despite Plaintiff's physical pain, she
could sustain concentration, ...