United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BECKY M. SMITH PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. Smith, (“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 applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act.
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 applications for DIB and SSI on
November 24, 2014. (Tr. 12). In this applications, Plaintiff
alleges being disabled due to sarcoidosis, rheumatoid
arthritis, high blood pressure, pulmonary problems, and
fibromyalgia. (Tr. 234). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted.
administrative hearing was held on August 29, 2016. (Tr.
39-68). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Mary Thomason. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Stephanie Ford
testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the
hearing, Plaintiff was forty-four (44) years old and had an
eleventh grade education. (Tr. 46).
the hearing, on November 22, 2016, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for
DIB and SSI. (Tr. 12-22). In this decision, the ALJ
determined the Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 14, Finding 1).
The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June
28, 2013. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).
then found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, hypertension, renal
insufficiency, and depression. (Tr. 14, 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. 14, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 16, 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 sedentary work except,
must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, and
gases, and limited to jobs involving occasional contact with
coworkers, supervisors, and the general public. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was nat 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. 21, 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 document preparer with approximately 45, 000 such
jobs in the nation and surveillance system monitor with
approximately 5, 300 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 June 28,
2013, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 22, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 191-194). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On November 17, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 13. 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. ...