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Condley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

April 9, 2019

PATTY M. CONDLEY PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States Chief District Judge Brian S. Miller. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Patty M. Condley (“Condley”), applied for disability benefits on April 11, 2013, alleging disability beginning on December 5, 2012.[1] (Tr. at 417). After conducting a hearing on February 27, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application on September 11, 2014. (Tr. at 425). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thereafter, on July 27, 2015, Condley filed a complaint in this Court, seeking remand. See Condley v. Social Security Administration, 4:15-CV-00462 JTR, (E.D. Ark. October 18, 2016).

         In an order dated October 18, 2016, the Court reversed and remanded the ALJ's decision, with instructions to “further develop the record with necessary medical information, ” which at that point contained only two medical opinions, those of reviewing state-agency doctors. (Tr. at 58, 70, 444).

         On November 28, 2016, the Appeals Council issued a remand order consistent with this Court's ruling, and instructed the ALJ to “take any further action needed to complete the administrative record and issue a new decision…and offer [Condley] the opportunity for a [second] hearing.” (Tr. at 448). Eight new medical exhibits were obtained (Tr. at 576-713), and a second hearing was held on May 30, 2017. (Tr. at 386-413).

         In a decision dated September 9, 2017, the same ALJ again denied Condley's application for disability benefits. (Tr. at 374-379). She appealed that ruling to the Appeals Council, which declined review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Condley has filed a Complaint seeking judicial review from this Court.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Condley had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from the alleged onset date of December 5, 2012 through the date last insured of June 30, 2014. (Tr. at 376). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Condley had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and hypertension. Id.

         After finding that her impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 376), the ALJ determined that Condley had the residual functional capacity (ARFC@) to perform the full range of light work, except that she could only occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, or crouch. (Tr. at 377).

         Based on her RFC, the ALJ concluded that Condley was able to perform her past relevant work as a teacher's aide. (Tr. at 379). Thus, the ALJ found that Condley was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); seealso 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ...


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