United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Colleen Lewis, ("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 Disability
Income Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security
Income ("SSI") under Title 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. 7. 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 on August 8, 2014
and for SSI on September 23, 2015. (Tr. 34). In these
applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to
anxiety, depression, cognitive issues, fibromyalgia,
narcolepsy, cataplexy, and blackouts. (Tr. 287). These
applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 34). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted.
administrative hearings were held on February 22, 2016 and
August 9, 2017. (Tr. 55-98, 99-115). At these hearings,
Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Howard
Goode. Id. Plaintiff, Vocational Expert
("VE") Juanita Grant, Medical Expert Dr. Steven
Goldstein and three lay witnesses testified at the hearing.
Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was
fifty-one (51) years old and had a high school education.
the hearings, on September 14, 2017, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiffs applications for DIB
and SSI. (Tr. 34-47). In this decision, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff had last met the insured status requirements of the
Act on December 31, 2018. (Tr. 36, Finding 1). The ALJ also
found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity ("SGA") since her onset date of April 25,
2014. (Tr. 36, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
fibromyalgia, depression, narcolepsy, and generalized anxiety
disorder. (Tr. 36, 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. 37, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs subjective complaints
and determined her RFC. (Tr. 38-45, Finding 5). First, the
ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs subjective complaints and found her
claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id.
Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to
perform light work, except she could only occasionally
balance, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb stairs or ramps;
could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; should avoid
dangerous moving machinery, unprotected heights, and work
with unexpected loud noises; could maintain attention and
concentration sufficiently to perform simple, routine work
tasks; and could occasionally interact with coworkers,
supervisors, and the public. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiffs Past Relevant Work
("PRW"). (Tr. 45, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not capable of performing any of her PRW.
Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 45-46, Finding 10). The
ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the VE.
Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all
Plaintiffs vocational factors, a hypothetical individual
would be able to perform the requirements of representative
occupations such as information clerk with approximately 981,
150 such jobs in the nation and furniture rental clerk with
approximately 2, 437, 610 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 her onset date of April 25, 2014 through her last
date of the decision. (Tr. 46, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 245-246). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-7). On April 19, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECFNo. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECFNos. 18, 19. 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);
42U.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." 42U.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 §§