United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Maria Reyes, 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 disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act (hereinafter
“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In
this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there
is substantial evidence in the administrative record to
support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
filed her application for DIB on June 23, 2016, alleging an
onset date of January 1, 2016, due to back pain, neck pain,
dislocation of disc, arthritis, depression, tingling of feet,
and tension in muscles. (ECF No. 13, pp. 64-65). The
Commissioner denied her application initially on September
27, 2016, and upon reconsideration on December 22, 2016.
(Id., pp. 63, 75). At the Plaintiff's request,
the Hon. Glenn A. Neel, Administrative Law Judge, held an
administrative hearing on May 8, 2017. (Id., pp.
39-62). Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel. The
ALJ noted that Plaintiff had earnings at the substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”) level in January and
February 2016, and Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date
to March 1, 2016. (Id., pp. 43-44).
time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 42 years old with a
sixth-grade education she received in Mexico. (Id.,
p. 46). She is illiterate in English. (Id., p. 47).
She had past relevant work (“PRW”) experience as
a poultry trimmer. (Id.).
February 12, 2018, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and thoracic spine,
osteoarthritis of the knees, right shoulder tendonitis and
acromioclavicular (AC) joint changes, and obesity were
severe, but he concluded they did not meet or medically equal
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525
and 404.1526). (Id., pp. 26-28). He determined that
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, except she can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb
ramps and stairs; she can never climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds; she can frequently, but not constantly, reach and
handle; and, she must avoid concentrated exposure to
temperature extremes, wetness, humidity, and hazards,
including no driving as part of work. (Id., pp.
28-32). With the assistance of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable
to perform any PRW, but she could perform the requirements of
representative occupations such as: plastics molding machine
tender, hotel housekeeper, power screwdriver operator, and
small product assembler. (Id., pp. 32-33). The ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined by the Act, from March 1, 2016 through the date of
his decision and benefits were denied. (Id., pp.
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review
on June 20, 2018. (Id., pp. 5-9). Plaintiff filed
this action on August 22, 2018. (ECF No. 1). This matter is
before the undersigned for report and recommendation. Both
parties have filed appeal briefs (ECF Nos. 16, 17), and the
case is ripe for decision.
Court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's findings. Vossen v.
Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but it is enough that
a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638
F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ's
decision if the record contains substantial evidence to
support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858
(8th Cir. 2014). If there is substantial evidence in the
record to support 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.
Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015).
In other words, 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, we
must affirm the ALJ's decision. Id.
claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the
burden of proving her disability by establishing a physical
or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and
that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful
activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217
(8th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Act
defines “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). A
Plaintiff must show that her disability, not simply her
impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive
Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a
five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for
disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since filing her claim; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings;
(4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing
past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to
perform other work in the national economy given her age,
education, and experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
Only if he reaches the final stage does the fact finder
consider the claimant's age, education, and work
experience in light of her residual functional capacity.
McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir.
1982); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
raises one issue on appeal: That the ALJ erred in his RFC
analysis. (ECF No. 16, pp. 16-18). She argues that the
medical evidence supports an RFC of less than sedentary, and
that the ALJ erred by not including additional limitations
regarding Plaintiff's upper extremities, particularly her
right shoulder. (Id., p. 16). She contends the
medical evidence shows “numerous issues the Plaintiff
has had with her right upper extremity that would cause her
to have issues grasping and holding to turn objects, as
required by SSR 83-10.” (Id., p. 17). Noting
that “light work” requires “a good deal of
walking or standing, ” she also asserts
“[s]tanding all day would be an issue.”
the most a person can do despite that person's
limitations. 20 C.F.R.' 404.1545. A disability claimant
has the burden of establishing her RFC. Vossen, 612
F.3d at 1016. “The ALJ determines a claimant's RFC
based on all relevant evidence in the record, including
medical records, observations of treating physicians and
others, and the claimant's own descriptions of his or her
limitations.” Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963,
971 (8th Cir. 2010); Davidson v. Astrue, 578 F.3d
838, 844 (8th Cir. 2009). Limitations resulting from symptoms
such as pain are also factored into the assessment. 20
C.F.R.' 404.1545(a)(3). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has held that a
“claimant's residual functional capacity is a
medical question.” Miller, 784 F.3d at 479
(citing Lauer v. Apfel,245 F.3d 700, 704 (8th Cir.