United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
Litchford (“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 Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability
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. 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 disability applications on January 22,
2015. (Tr. 143). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges
being disabled due to major depressive disorder, anxiety
disorder, PTSD, right foot pain, and obesity. (Tr. 341).
Plaintiff alleges an onset date of May 29, 2013. (Tr. 143).
These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 83-110).
Plaintiff's applications were denied, Plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing on these applications, and this
hearing request was granted. Plaintiff's first
administrative hearing was held on October 27, 2015. (Tr.
58-82). Thereafter, the ALJ entered an unfavorable disability
determination on December 11, 2015. (Tr. 139-155). The
Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's case back to the
ALJ. (Tr. 156-160). The ALJ then held a second administrative
hearing on May 16, 2017. (Tr. 58-82). This hearing was held
in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing,
Plaintiff was present and was represented by Mike Hamby.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Jim Spraggins testified at this hearing.
Id. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was thirty-eight
(38) years old, which is defined as a “younger
individual” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c)(2008)
(SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr.
35). Plaintiff also testified she had completed high school.
August 9, 2017, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ
entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's
applications. (Tr. 12-21). The ALJ found Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2017.
(Tr. 17, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged
in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since May
29, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 17, Finding 2). The
ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: chronic lower back pain syndrome, plantar
fasciitis, obesity, and depression. (Tr. 17, Finding 3).
Despite being severe, the ALJ 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. 17-18, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 18-21). First, the
ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and
largely discounted them. Id. Second, the ALJ found
Plaintiff retained the following RFC:
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(b) and 416.967(b) except limited to performing
simple tasks with simple instructions.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff retained the
capacity to perform her PRW as a poultry eviscerator. (Tr.
21, Finding 6). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to
perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been
under a disability, as defined by the Act, from May 29, 2013
through the date of the ALJ's decision or through August
9, 2017. (Tr. 21, Finding 7).
requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's
unfavorable disability determination. On May 3, 2018, the
Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability
determination. (Tr. 1-6). On May 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed
the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on May 29, 2018. ECF No. 5. This
case is now ready for decision.
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) (2010); 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).
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. §§