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Phillips v. Social Security Administration Commissioner

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

September 12, 2019

FELICIA ANN PHILLIPS PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATON DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Felicia Ann Phillips (“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 applications for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Act.

         The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 8.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1.Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on April 8, 2016. (Tr. 19). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to high blood pressure, shoulder and stomach issues, GERD, and borderline diabetes. (Tr. 282). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2010. (Tr. 19). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 97-100).

         After Plaintiff's applications were denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on these applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 41-70). On November 29, 2017, the SSA held an administrative hearing in Little Rock, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Diane Smith testified at this hearing. Id.

         On June 12, 2018, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 16-40). The ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2021. (Tr. 21, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2010, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 21, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder; obesity; bilateral shoulder arthritis; cervical spine degenerative disc disease; gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”); and a history of peptic ulcers. (Tr. 22, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 22-25, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 25-32, Finding 5). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; can frequently handle, finger, and feel bilaterally; and can occasionally stoop and crouch. She is limited to work involving simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. She can make simple work-related decisions. She can perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed. She requires simple, direct, and concrete supervision.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 32-33, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a housekeeper (light, unskilled). Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from January 1, 2010 through the date of her decision or through June 15, 2018. (Tr. 34, Finding 7). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from January 1, 2010 (alleged onset date) through June 15, 2018 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 34, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ unfavorable disability determination. On October 4, 2018, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-6). On November 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 27, 2018. ECF No. 8. 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 ...


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