United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Carroll, (“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. 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 application for DIB and SSI on
November 24, 2015. (Tr. 19). In these applications, Plaintiff
alleges being disabled due to history of Bells palsy,
problems with gastric bypass surgery, asthma, myalgia,
lightheadedness, dizzy, chest discomfort, chronic
constipation, chronic nausea, obesity, and gastritis. (Tr.
236). These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 19). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted.
administrative hearing was held on May 23, 2017. (Tr. 34-55).
At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Sydney Brown. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Leonard Francois testified at the
hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff
was thirty-nine (39) years old and had a high school
education. (Tr. 37, 39).
the hearing, on August 29, 2017, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (Tr. 19-29). In this decision, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff had last met the insured status requirements of the
Act through August 31, 2018. (Tr. 22, Finding 1). The ALJ
also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since her alleged onset date of
March 17, 2013. (Tr. 22, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
obesity, asthma, history of Bell's palsy with recurrence,
neuropathy, migraines, and anxiety. (Tr. 22, 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. 22, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 23, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform sedentary work, except
is limited from concentrated exposure to cold, humidity, and
noise, and from performing complex work tasks due to
emotional problems. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 27, 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. 27, 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 document specialist with approximately
46, 000 such jobs in the nation, telephone information clerk
with approximately 3, 400 such jobs in the nation, and press
clipping cutter and paster with approximately 3, 900 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 March 17, 2013
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 28, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 183-184). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On June 6, 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. ...