United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Bobby Don Jordan, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the
commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his claim for supplemental security
income (SSI) under the provisions of Title XVI of the Social
Security Act (Act). In this judicial review, the Court must
determine whether there is substantial evidence in the
administrative record to support the Commissioner's
decision. See U.S.C. § 405(g).
protectively filed his current application for SSI on
December 18, 2015, alleging an inability to work since August
31, 2007, due to nerves, a broken hand, and high blood
pressure. (Tr. 10, 219, 223). An administrative hearing was
held on December 20, 2016, at which Plaintiff appeared with
his attorney. (Tr. 37-51).
written decision dated March 1, 2017, the ALJ found that
through the date last insured, Plaintiff had an impairment or
combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 12-13).
Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: hypertension, right 5th metacarpal
fracture with angulation, status post right carpal tunnel
syndrome release, and status post right cubital tunnel
release. (Tr. 12). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had the
following nonsevere impairments: major depressive disorder,
social anxiety disorder, and avoidant personality disorder.
Id. However, after reviewing all the evidence
presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of
any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found at
20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr.13-14). The ALJ
found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform the full range of light work as defined in
20 CFR 416.967(b). (Tr. 14-15). The ALJ then used the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines and determined that,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience a finding of not disabled was directed by
Medical-Vocational Rule 202.20. (Tr. 16).
April 28, 2017, Plaintiff requested a review of the hearing
decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 197-204). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-4).
Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before
the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc.
6). The parties have filed appeal briefs and this case is
before the undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs.
13, 14). The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The
complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the
parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v.
Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but is enough that a
reasonable mind could accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Ponder v. Colvin, 770 F.3d 1190, 1193-94
(8th Cir. 2014). The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if
the record contains substantial evidence to support it.
Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir.
2003). So long as there is substantial evidence in the record
that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may
not reverse it simply because evidence exists in the record
that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because the
Court would have decided the case differently. Haley v.
Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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, the decision of
the ALJ must be affirmed. 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 her disability
by establishing a physical or mental disability that has
lasted for at least one year and that prevents her from
engaging in substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see
also 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 (d)(3), 1382(3)(C).
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 his 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. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact
finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience in light of her residual functional capacity.
See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42
(8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R § 404.1520. While
the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner at step
five, the burden of persuasion to prove disability and to
demonstrate RFC both remain on the claimant. Stormo v.
Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801, 806 (8thCir. 2004)
(“The burden of persuasion to prove disability and to
demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant, even when the burden
of production shifts to the Commissioner at step
particular concern to the undersigned is the ALJ's RFC
determination. RFC is the most that a person can do despite
that person's limitations. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). It is assessed using all relevant evidence in
the record. Id. This includes medical records,
observations of treating physicians and others, and the
claimant's own description of his limitations.
Guilliams v. Barhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801
(8th Cir. 2005). Eichelberger v.
Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 591 (8th Cir. 2004).
Limitations 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.” Lauer v. Apfel, 245 F.3d
700, 704 (8th Cir. 2001). Therefore, an ALJ's
determination concerning a claimant's RFC must be
supported by medical evidence that addresses the
claimant's ability to function in the workplace.
Lewis v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 646 (8th
Cir. 2003). “[T]he ALJ is [also] required to set forth
specifically a claimant's limitations and to determine
how those limitations affect his RFC.” Id.
present case, the ALJ determined Plaintiff maintained the RFC
to perform the full range of light work. Despite
Plaintiff's subjective complaints of difficulty
breathing, diagnosis with and treatment for emphysema, and
two chest CT's showing both a pulmonary nodule and
emphysema, the ALJ did not address any breathing impairments
in his decision. The ALJ did not provide any analysis or
reasoning as to why this impairment was not considered. While
there are RFC assessments from state agency medical
consultants Rita Allbright, M.D., and William Harrison, M.D.,
neither provided an opinion as to what impact emphysema would
have upon Plaintiff's RFC. (Tr. 63-64, 68-81). ...