United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Hale, (“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 applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act.
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. 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 and SSI on May 19,
2015. (Tr. 10). In these applications, Plaintiff alleged
being disabled due to Sjogren's syndrome and epilepsy.
(Tr. 300). These applications were denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 10). Thereafter, Plaintiff
requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request
was granted. (Tr. 148-149).
administrative hearing was held on October 12, 2016. (Tr.
29-56). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Wayne Young. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Debra Arlene Steele
testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the
hearing, Plaintiff was thirty (30) years old and had a high
school education. (Tr. 33).
the hearing, on December 16, 2016, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (Tr. 10-21). In this decision, the ALJ found
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act
through September 30, 2018. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also
determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since May 15, 2011. (Tr. 12,
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
epilepsy, osteoarthritis of the shoulder and knee,
degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and Sjogren's
syndrome. (Tr. 12, 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. 14-19, 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
could occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, and
crouch; frequently feel and handle bilaterally; and
occasionally reach and work overhead. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 19, 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. 20, 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 call out operator with approximately 33, 575 such
jobs in the nation, telephone order clerk with approximately
18, 470 such jobs in the nation, and telephone information
clerk with approximately 89, 020 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 May 15, 2011 through the date of the decision. (Tr.
21, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 234-235). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On February 23, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. 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. ...