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Smith v. Saul

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

September 11, 2019

MERANDA M. SMITH 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, Meranda M. Smith (“Smith”), applied for disability benefits on February 8, 2016, alleging disability beginning on October 20, 2013.[2] (Tr. at 18). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 30). 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 Smith 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 Smith had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of February 1, 2016. (Tr. at 22). The ALJ found, at Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, that Smith had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with bulging disc at ¶ 3-L4 and L5-S1, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and depression. Id.

         At Step Three, the ALJ determined that Smith's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Smith had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with restrictions: 1) she is limited to work involving simple tasks and simple instructions, where there is only incidental contact with the public; and 2) she cannot work where there is exposure to unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, or driving. (Tr. at 24).

         The ALJ found that Smith was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 28). Next, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, considering Smith's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, such as can filling and closing machine tender and collator operator. (Tr. at 29). Therefore, the ALJ found that Smith 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 ...


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