United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
TOMMY R. VAUGHN PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tommy R. Vaughn, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his claim for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
provisions of Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). In this judicial review, the Court must
determine whether there is substantial evidence in the
administrative record to support the Commissioner's
decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
filed his application for SSI on May 22, 2014. (ECF No. 10,
pp. 23, 161, 198, 229). He alleged that his disability began
on March 2, 2002, due to right eye blindness, back and knee
problems, high blood pressure, unspecified skin condition,
degenerative disc disease, and bone fragments in the shoulder
and neck. (Id.). His claims were denied initially on
September 18, 2014, and upon reconsideration on December 8,
2014. (Id., pp. 104, 109). Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and the hearing was held on July 30,
2015 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, before the Hon. Clifford
Shilling, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
(Id., pp. 42-74). Plaintiff appeared in person and
was represented by counsel, Laura J. McKinnon.
(Id.). Vocational expert, Larry Seifert, and
Plaintiff's significant other, Roxanne Marsh, also
testified at the hearing. (Id.). On the date of the
hearing, Plaintiff amended his onset date to May 3, 2013.
(Id., p. 45).
written decision dated June 28, 2016, the ALJ found that
although Plaintiff had the severe impairments of right eye
blindness, degenerative disc disease, and problems with his
neck and shoulders, Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in
the Listing of Impairments. (Id., pp. 26-28). The
ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he
can occasionally perform overhead reaching bilaterally. The
Claimant can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, push/pull within those limitations, stand/walk
for six hours in and eight-hour workday with normal breaks,
and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal
breaks. The claimant cannot perform work requiring depth
perception or right peripheral vision. (Id., pp.
the assistance of a vocational expert (“VE”), the
ALJ then determined Plaintiff would be unable to perform any
past relevant work (Id., p. 30); however, the ALJ
found Plaintiff could perform the requirements of the
representative occupations of: Photocopying-machine operator
(DOT No. 207.685-014), 68, 848 jobs in the national economy;
Bakery worker, conveyor line (DOT No. 524.687-022), with 5,
571 jobs in the national economy; or, Blending-tank tender
helper (DOT No. 520.687-066), with 9, 106 jobs in the
national economy. (Id., pp. 35-36). The ALJ found
Plaintiff had not been disabled under the definition of the
Act from July 1, 2013 through the date of his decision.
November 17, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id., pp. 1-5). Plaintiff then
filed this action. (ECF No. 1). This matter is before the
undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (ECF No.
7). Both parties have filed appeal briefs. (ECF Nos. 16, 17).
The case is ready for decision.
Court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings. Vossen v.
Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but it is enough that
a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638
F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ's
decision if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858
(8th Cir. 2014). If 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. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015). In other words, 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, we must affirm the ALJ's decision.
claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the
burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical
or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and
that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful
activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217
(8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
The Act defines “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. §
1382c(a)(3)(D). A Plaintiff must show that his disability,
not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing his claim; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing
past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to
perform other work in the national economy given his age,
education, and experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
Only if he reaches the final stage does the fact finder
consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of his residual functional capacity.
See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th
Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v.
Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R.
raises the following issues in this matter: (1) whether the
ALJ properly considered the severity of Plaintiff's
impairments in making his RFC assessment; (2) whether the ALJ
properly considered the side effects of his medications; (3)
whether an MRI report from May of 2018 warrants remand; and,
(5) whether the Court should allow a ...