United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
ANDRELYN R. THOMAS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Andrelyn R. Thomas, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
denying her claim for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental
security income (“SSI”) benefits under Titles II
and XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter “the
Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). 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. § 405(g).
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 applications for DIB and SSI on
December 1, 2014. (Tr. 79). In this application, Plaintiff
alleges being disabled due to sarcoidosis of the lungs and
organs, sleep apnea with an alleged onset date of September
4, 2014. (Tr. 79, 465, 484). This application was denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 79). Plaintiff
requested an administrative hearing and that administrative
hearing was held on March 20, 2017. (Tr. 308-329). At this
hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Lisa Douglas. Id. Plaintiff,
Plaintiff's sister, Natalie, and a Vocational Expert
(“VE”) testified at the hearing. Id.
the hearing, on February 1, 2017, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision. (Tr. 76-86). The ALJ found Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her
alleged onset date. (Tr. 81, Finding 2). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: pulmonary
sarcoidosis, ocular sarcoidosis, morbid obesity and
obstructive sleep apnea. (Tr. 81, 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. 82, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-18, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found his claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that she
must avoid even moderate exposure to pulmonary irritants.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 85, 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. 19-20, Finding 10). The
ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the VE.
Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all
Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual
would be able to perform the requirements of representative
occupations such as a patcher with approximately 6, 800 such
jobs in the nation or a touch up screener with approximately
8, 500 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon these
finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Act, from September 3, 2014
through the date of his decision. (Tr. 86, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 438). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-4).
March 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No.
1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 14.
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); 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. §§
404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the
plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light
of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is
reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,