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Tippin v. Saul

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

December 12, 2019



         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, Juanita J. Tippin, applied for disability benefits on June 30, 2016, alleging a disability onset date of April 1, 2010.[2] (Tr. at 10). The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Ms. Tippin's claim. (Tr. at 23). 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 Ms. Tippin has requested judicial review. For the reasons stated below, the Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Ms. Tippin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date of June 30, 2016. (Tr. at 12). At Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Ms. Tippin had the following severe impairments: hypertension, asthma, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, borderline intellectual functioning, depression, and anxiety. Id.

         The ALJ found that Ms. Tippin's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Ms. Tippin had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at the light level, with limitations. (Tr. at 15). She would need a job which would be performed in a controlled environment, not exposed to dust, fumes, or smoke in concentrated amounts, and not exposed to temperature extremes. Id. She would be limited to simple tasks with simple instructions, and incidental (infrequent) contact with the public. Id.

         The ALJ next found that Ms. Tippin was unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (Tr. at 21). The ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, considering Ms. Tippin's age, education, work experience and the RFC for light work, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, such as price marker, routing clerk, and garment sorter. (Tr. at 22). The ALJ also determined, based on VE testimony, that Ms. Tippin could perform the sedentary jobs of circuit board assembler and toy stuffer. Id. Therefore, the ALJ found that Ms. Tippin 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 record as a whole which supports the decision of the ALJ. Miller, 784 F.3d at 477. The Court has reviewed the entire record, including the briefs, the ALJ's decision, and the transcript of the hearing.

         B. Ms. Tippin's Arguments on Appeal

         Ms. Tippin contends that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. She argues that the ALJ did not properly develop the record, he failed to assess many of her impairments as severe at Step Two, and the RFC did not fully incorporate Ms. Tippin's limitations. After ...

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