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Stewart v. Saul

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

August 23, 2019

AMBER D. STEWART PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         I. Procedures for filing Objections:

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to District Judge Susan Webber Wright. You may file written objections to this Recommendation. If you file objections, they must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for your objection.

         Your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation.

         If no objections are filed, Judge Wright can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, you may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         II. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Amber D. Stewart (“Stewart”), applied for disability benefits on September 4, 2015, alleging disability beginning on August 18, 2015. (Tr. at 30). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied her application. (Tr. at 44). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Stewart has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, this Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         III. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Stewart had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of August 18, 2015 (Tr. at 33). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, that Stewart had the following severe impairments: left and medial and lateral meniscus tears, status post left knee arthroscopy, partial medial meniscectomy, and partial lateral meniscectomy; irritable bowel syndrome; gastroparesis; anemia; fibromyalgia; obesity; major depressive disorder; and generalized anxiety disorder. Id.

         At Step Three, the ALJ determined that Stewart's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Stewart had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with restrictions: 1) she is limited to work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, where incidental is defined as interpersonal contact requiring a limited degree of interaction such as meeting and greeting the public, answering simple questions, accepting payment, and making change; 2) she is limited to work where the complexity of tasks can be learned by demonstration or repetition within 30 days with few variables and little judgment; and 3) she is limited to work where the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. at 35).

         The ALJ found that Stewart was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 42). Next, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, considering Stewart's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, such as addresser and document preparer. (Tr. at 43). Therefore, the ALJ found that Stewart was not disabled. Id.

         IV. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). "Substantial evidence" in this context means less than a preponderance but more than a scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). In other words, it is "enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision." Id. (citation omitted). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision, however, "merely because substantial ...


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