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Mansfield v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

February 6, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT


          Hon. Barry A. Bryant, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Melissa Mansfield, (“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 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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB on October 3, 2012. (Tr. 261). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to migraines and bulging disc in neck. (Tr. 320). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2009. (Tr. 261). Her application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 81-82).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 162-163). The request was granted and Plaintiff's initial administrative hearing was held on February 11, 2014. (Tr. 48-67). Following this, on April 30, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's Title II application. (Tr. 112-134). Plaintiff then requested the Appeals Council review the decision, and the Appeals Council vacated the April 30, 2014 decision and remanded the case. (Tr. 142-144).

         On July 13, 2016 Plaintiff had her second hearing. (Tr. 68-80). Plaintiff was present and was represented by, Stanley Brummal. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Juanita Grant testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was forty-four (44) years old and had completed the twelfth grade. (Tr. 261, 321).

         Following the hearing, on August 30, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 27-40). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 30, Finding 1). The also ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2009. (Tr. 30, Finding 2).

         The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: migraine headaches, cervical spine degenerative disc disease, mixed sleep apnea, anemia, obesity, anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, and narcotics abuse. (Tr. 30, 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. 31, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 33-39, 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 light work, except can understand, remember, and carry out no more than simple, one to three step instructions with no more than occasional contact with the public and coworkers. Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 39, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing her PRW as a cafeteria worker. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from January 1, 2009, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 39, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 22). The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 16-19). On March 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14, 19. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         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. §§ ...

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