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Cain v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

December 14, 2018

ANGELA GAYLE CAIN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Angela Gayle Cain (“Cain”), applied for disability benefits on July 28, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of January 14, 2014. (Tr. at 10). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Cain's application. (Tr. at 23). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] reverses the ALJ's decision and remands for further review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Cain had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 14, 2014, the date she alleged she became disabled. (Tr. at 12). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Cain had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, affective disorder, headache, atrial fibrillation, and Chiari malformation. Id.

         After finding that Cain's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 13), the ALJ determined that Cain had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at the sedentary level, except that: (1) she could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and could only occasionally climb ramps or stairs; (2) she could only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; (3) she must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, excess vibration, fumes, odors, dust, gases, poor ventilation, and similar irritants; (4) she must avoid hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights; and (5) she is limited to simple, repetitive, and routine tasks. (Tr. at 14).

         Based on Cain's RFC, the ALJ concluded that she was unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (Tr. at 21). Relying upon the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) at Step Five, the ALJ found that, based on Cain's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including positions as Document Preparer and Callout Operator. (Tr. at 23). Thus, the ALJ held that Cain was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While ''substantial evidence'' is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ''substantial evidence on the record as a whole'' requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

         ''[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.'' Reversal is not warranted, however, ''merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.''

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         B. Cain's Arguments on Appeal

         Cain contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. Specifically, she argues that the ALJ erred when he gave no weight to the opinions of Cain's treating physician and the consultative medical examiner, and that the ALJ did not give appropriate consideration to Cain's pain. The Court ...


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