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Tatum v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

September 9, 2019

LATONIA TATUM PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Latonia Tatum (“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 Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         1.Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on March 11, 2014. (Tr. 25).[1] Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to gastroparesis, chronic arthritis, degenerative disc disease, altered mental status, depression, and bipolar. (Tr. 249). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 25).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 163). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 18, 2016. (Tr. 69-88). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Jesse Kearney. Id. Plaintiff testified at this hearing that she was forty (40) years old. (Tr. 72). As for education, Plaintiff testified she had graduated from high school and completed two years of college. (Tr. 73).

         On December 21, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for disability. (Tr. 25-39). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 27, Finding1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since October 31, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 27, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, gastroparesis, and obesity. (Tr. 27, Finding 3). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's 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. 33, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 33-38). 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 the full range of sedentary work. Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 38, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not capable of performing her PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 38, Finding 10). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from October 31, 2013, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 39, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 328-329). On August 14, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-7). On October 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 18. This case is now ready for decision.

         2.Applicable Law:

         In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports 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. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         It is 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. §§ ...


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