United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Madison (“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
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of
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 DIB application on April 25, 2013.
(Tr. 126). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to pulled ligaments in her left arm, carpal
tunnel syndrome in her right arm, and heartburn. (Tr. 301).
Plaintiff originally alleged an onset date of July 28, 2011
but later amended that alleged onset date to November 25,
2011. (Tr. 15). This application was denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 106-122).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and this
hearing request was granted. (Tr. 43-63). Plaintiff's
first administrative hearing was held on June 12, 2014. (Tr.
43-63). The ALJ then entered an unfavorable decision on June
25, 2015. (Tr. 123-144). After this decision was entered,
Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, and the
Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's case back to the ALJ
for further administrative review. (Tr. 145-149).
then held a second administrative hearing on September 12,
2017. (Tr. 64-105). This hearing was held in Texarkana,
Arkansas. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Mr. Ruetestified at the administrative hearing
in this matter. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff
testified she was fifty-five (55) years old, which is defined
as an “person of advanced age” under 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1563(e) (2008). (Tr. 71).
Plaintiff also testified she had only completed the eleventh
grade in school. Id.
November 20, 2017, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ
entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's
application. (Tr. 12-31). In this decision, the ALJ found
Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act
on December 31, 2016. (Tr. 17, Finding 1). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) from her amended alleged onset date of
November 25, 2011 through her date last insured of December
31, 2016. (Tr. 17, Fining 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff
had the following “medically determinable
impairments”: arthritis of the right foot status-post
fracture of right fifth metatarsal, umbilical hernia,
diabetes, hypertension, cardiomegaly, status-post lateral
epicondylectomy, GERD, de Quervain's syndrome, right
carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), depression, hyperlipidemia, and
obesity. (Tr. 17, Finding 3).
ALJ, however, also determined that although these were
“medically determinable impairments, ” they were
not “severe” impairments. (Tr. 17-23, Finding 4).
Thus, because Plaintiff had no “severe”
impairments, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under
a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from
November 25, 2011 (alleged onset date) through December 31,
2016 (Plaintiff's date last insured). (Tr. 23, Finding
Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. (Tr.
1-6). On June 22, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this
request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On August 8, 2018, Plaintiff
filed her Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties
consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 20,
2018. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF
Nos. 11-12. 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. §§
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. ...