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Helberg v. Saul

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

September 24, 2019

JAMES E. HELBERG PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, James E. Helberg (“Helberg”), applied for disability benefits on November 1, 2016, alleging disability beginning on May 13, 2009.[2] (Tr. at 11). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied his application. (Tr. at 34). The Appeals Council denied Helberg’s request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Helberg has filed a Complaint seeking judicial review from this Court.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the Commissioner’s decision should be affirmed.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Helberg had not engaged in substantial gainful since his amended alleged onset date of November 1, 2016. (Tr. at 13). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Helberg has the following severe impairments: status post remote history of thoracic fractures and left shoulder injury; status post remote right ankle fracture with surgery; obesity; depressive disorder; anxiety disorder; and post-traumatic stress disorder. Id.

         After finding that Helberg’ impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 16), the ALJ determined that Helberg had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work, except that: (1) he can frequently reach overhead with the left (non-dominant) upper extremity; (2) the work must be unskilled, with simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete; and (3) he can maintain frequent contact with coworkers and supervisors and occasional contact with the general public. (Tr. at 18).

         The ALJ found that, based on Helberg’s RFC and Vocational Expert (“VE”) testimony, Helberg was able to perform his past work as a production assembler. (Tr. at 32). The ALJ made an alternative finding at Step Five. Id. He relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Helberg's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, including work as an inspector/hand packager and a routing clerk. (Tr. at 33). Thus, the ALJ found that Helberg was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court’s function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner’s decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however, “merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is substantial evidence in the ...


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