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Thompson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

November 28, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Aftonn Thompson (“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 Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on September 24, 2015. (Tr. 12). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a learning disability and being “nervous around people.” (Tr. 184). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 15, 2015. (Tr. 12). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 65-88). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 29-64). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 22, 2016 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id.

         At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Michael Joe Hamby. (Tr. 29-64). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Debra Steel testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-three (33) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008). (Tr. 34-35). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had completed high school with special education. (Tr. 35).

         On June 13, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's SSI application. (Tr. 9-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 24, 2015, her application date. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mild intellectual disability; and persistent depressive dis/adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood. (Tr. 14, 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. 14-16, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 16-20, Finding 4). 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 the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: she is capable of simple, routine, repetitive tasks with incidental interpersonal contact with coworkers and supervisors, no contact with the public and simple, direct, and concrete supervision.


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 20-21, Finding 5). Based upon her work experience and her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a hospital cleaner (medium, unskilled). Id. In accordance with this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from September 24, 2015 (application date) through the date of his decision or through June 13, 2017 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 21, Finding 6).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. On February 7, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 2-4). On February 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 17-18. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In 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) (2010); 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 ...

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