United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sells, (“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 Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II 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. 5. 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 DIB on February 13,
2015. (Tr. 12). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to back injury, aortic insufficiency, mitral
valve prolapse, and degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 345).
Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 26, 2011. (Tr. 12).
Her application was denied initially and again upon
requested an administrative hearing on her denied
application. (Tr. 254-255). The request was granted and
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 3,
2016. (Tr. 199-224). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present
and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id.
Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Lenora
Maatouk testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of
the hearing, Plaintiff was forty (40) years old and had a
high school education. (Tr. 203-204).
the hearing, on May 2, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr.
12-19). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through
September 30, 2016. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ also
determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) from March 26, 2011 through her
last date insured of September 30, 2016. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).
then found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
spinal myofascitis, status post lumbar discectomy, mitral
valve prolapse, aortic insufficiency, hypertension 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 4).
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
she is unable to more than occasionally climb, but cannot
climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; can occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; can maintain attention and
concentration sufficiently to perform simple work tasks which
are routine and repetitive; and can frequently interact with
coworkers, supervisors and the public. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not 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. 18, 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 15, 035 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 March 26, 2011, through the date
last insured of September 30, 2016. (Tr. 19, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 298). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-5). On February 5, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14, 15. 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. ...