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Blanchard v. Saul

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

December 16, 2019

CASSANDRA DENISE BLANCHARD 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 Lee P. Rudofsky. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, you must specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for each of your objections, and your objections must be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the date this Recommendation was filed. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Cassandra Denise Blanchard (“Blanchard”), applied for disability benefits on February 9, 2016, alleging disability beginning on October 18, 2015.[2] (Tr. at 11). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application for benefits. (Tr. at 24). Because the Appeals Council later denied her request for review (Tr. at 1), the ALJ's opinion now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         For the reasons stated below, this Court should reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand the case for further proceedings.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Blanchard had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the original onset date of October 18, 2015. (Tr. at 14). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Blanchard had the following severe impairments: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndromes (“POTS”), pseudo seizures, neurologic cardiac syncope, depression, and anxiety. Id.

         After finding that Blanchard's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 14-17), the ALJ determined that she had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than sedentary work, with additional limitations, [3] which included only occasionally climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she could not climb ladders, work around hazards (unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts), or work in extreme heat; she could perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; she could make simple work related decisions; she could concentrate, persist, and maintain pace with normal breaks; and she must have only incidental interpersonal contact with supervision which is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. at 17).

         Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Blanchard was unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (Tr. at 23). At Step Five, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Blanchard's age, education, work experience and RFC, she could perform other jobs, such as food & beverage clerk and stuffer (one who fills pillows and toys). (Tr. at 24, 58). Accordingly, the ALJ held that Blanchard 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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