United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
DORA P. BIRGE PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED, STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dora P. Birge, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions
of Title II of the Social Security Act (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.
protectively filed her application for DIB on July 9, 2015,
alleging an inability to work since July 1, 2015, due to
degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis, herniated
discs, bulging discs, spondylitis, multiple bone spurs,
hypersomnolence, hypoglycemia, hypoactive thyroid, and
depression. (Tr. 245, 441). An administrative hearing was
held on March 26, 2016, at which plaintiff appeared with
counsel and testified. (Tr. 278-316).
written decision dated August 19, 2016, the ALJ found that
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment
or combination of impairments that were severe: bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome status post bilateral carpal tunnel
release; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine;
osteoarthritis; and anxiety. (Tr. 243-246). However, after
reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the
severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of
Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4.
(Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to:
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.157(b) except
that she can perform frequent, but not repetitive, handling,
grasping, and fingering. In addition, she can perform work
with simple tasks and simple instructions and incidental
contact with the public.
(Tr. 246). With the help of the vocational expert (VE), the
ALJ determined that during the relevant time period,
Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant
work, but would be capable of performing work as an office
helper, content inspector, or blending tank tender. (Tr.
Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before
the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc.
4). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is
now ready for decision. (Docs. 11, 12).
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v.
Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). 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. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966
(8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747
(8th Cir. 2001). 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, the decision of the ALJ must be
affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has
lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging
in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.
2001; see also 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(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.
§§423(d)(3). A Plaintiff must show that her
disability, not simply her impairment, has lasted for at
least twelve consecutive months.
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant had engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant had a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) met or equaled an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevented the claimant from
doing past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant was
able to perform other work in the national economy given her
age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her RFC. See McCoy v.
Schneider, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982);
20C.F.R. SS404.1520, abrogated on other grounds by
Higgens v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20
raises the following issues in this matter: 1) Whether the
ALJ properly developed the record; 2) Whether the ALJ erred
in failing to find Plaintiff's hypersomnolence and
nocturnal hypoxemia to be severe ...