United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
SHELLY D. SIKES PLAINTIFF
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
D. Sikes (“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”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI
of the Act.
to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)
(2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III 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
protectively filed her disability applications on August 20,
2015. (Tr. 19). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to
osteoarthritis, COPD, back problems, depression, and anxiety.
(Tr. 105, 323). These applications were denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 19).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her
applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr.
190). Plaintiff had an initial administrative hearing on June
13, 2016 and a supplemental hearing on May 8, 2017. (Tr.
41-74, 75-128). Plaintiff was present for both hearings, but
was only represented by counsel at the initial hearing.
January 24, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's applications for disability. (Tr.
19-33). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the
insured status of the Act through December 31, 2019. (Tr. 21,
Finding1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since
January 1, 2015, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 21, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative changes of her cervical, thoracic and lumbar
spine, dorsalgia, mild osteoarthritis of her bilateral knees,
fibromyalgia/polyarticular joint pain, diabetes mellitus,
obesity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and asthma/chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (Tr. 21-22, 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. 24, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 25-31). 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 a limited range of sedentary work.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 32, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was capable of performing her PRW as a receptionist
and data entry clerk. Id. Based upon this finding,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability,
as defined in the Act, from January 1, 2015, through the date
of the decision. (Tr. 32, Finding 7).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 268-269). On September
18, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-5). On November
14, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both
Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 16, 17. This case
is now ready for decision.
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).
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. §§