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Huntley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

March 11, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Cynthia Elaine Huntley (“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 a period of disability and 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. 7.[1] 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 DIB application on July 7, 2015. (Tr. 30). In her application, she alleges being disabled due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, reflect sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, back injury, and migraines. (Tr. 234). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of May 10, 2006. (Tr. 26). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 93-127).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 130-168). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on February 14, 2017 in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 43-88). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Mr. Rushing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Donald Rue testified at this hearing. Id. At the administrative hearing in this matter, Plaintiff testified she had a high school education. (Tr. 50). Plaintiff also testified she was fifty-three years old, which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008). (Tr. 49).

         After this hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on her disability application. (Tr. 23-40). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff would last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2020. (Tr. 28, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since February 7, 2014, her amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 28, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, right shoulder impingement, status-post left ankle fracture, lower extremity venous insufficiency, and hypertension. (Tr. 28-30, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ 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. 30-31, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 31-34, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff' subjective complaints and found they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds tha the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she can frequently use the upper extremities to grasp, finger, and feel.


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 35, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Considering this testimony and Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a personal attendant. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from February 7, 2014 through the date of his decision or through August 18, 2017. (Tr. 35, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On May 4, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On June 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF No. 7, 13-14. This case is now ready for determination.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In 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) (2006); 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 ...

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