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Randall v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

February 5, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Acting Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Karen C. Randall (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 205(g) 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 decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability under Titles II and XVI of the Act.

         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. 8.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         On September 12, 2014, the Plaintiff protectively filed her applications. (Tr. 17, 189-195). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges she was disabled due to type 2 diabetes, benign essential hypertension, allergic rhinitis, lumbar degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, stress, fatigue, depression, and headaches beginning June 2, 2014. (Tr. 189, 216, 267, 272277). These claims were denied initially on April 9, 2015, and upon reconsideration on July 17, 2015. (Tr. 135, 139).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on her application and this application was granted. (Tr. 141, 156). An administrative hearing was held on June 27, 2016, before the honorable Rowena E. DeLoach, Administrative Law Judge, in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 67-95). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Randolph Baltz. (Tr. 69). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Charles Smith, testified at this hearing. Id.

         On January 11, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 19). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2019. (Tr. 19, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 2, 2014, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 19, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, obesity, depression, and personality disorder. (Tr. 19-20, Finding 3). The ALJ additionally found Plaintiff had non-severe impairments of fibromyalgia and diabetes. (Tr. 19, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 20, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 22-31, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(b) with no overhead reaching, and with occasional interaction with the general public, coworkers and supervisors. Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined she was incapable of performing any of her past relevant work. (Tr. 27, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically that of a price marker, housekeeper, or deli cutter and slicer. (Tr. 28, Finding 10). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not been under disability under the Act from June 2, 2014 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 29, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 186). On November 7, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed the present appeal on January 5, 2018. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on January 23, 2018. ECF No. 8. 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) (2006); 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 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         It is 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. §423(d)(1)(A).

         To 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; ...

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