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Fink v. Saul

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

January 8, 2020

STACY FINK PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration[1]DEFENDANT

          ORDER

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Stacy Fink (“Fink”), applied for disability benefits on September 22, 2016, alleging disability beginning on June 1, 2012. (Tr. at 14). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied her application. (Tr. at 24). The Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[2] affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Fink had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of June 1, 2012. (Tr. at 16). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Fink had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and cannabis use disorder. Id.

         After finding that Fink's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 17), the ALJ determined that Fink had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at the sedentary level, except that: (1) she must have an option to sit or stand at-will during the workday; (2) she could occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb, and occasionally stoop to reach at a table top level; (3) she could understand, remember, and carry out simple job instructions, make judgments in simple work-related situations, respond appropriately to co-workers and supervisors, and respond appropriately to minor changes in the usual work routine; and (4) she should avoid interaction with the public. Id.

         Based on her RFC, the ALJ concluded that Fink was unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (Tr. at 23). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Fink's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could perform, including work as a surveillance monitor and machine tender. (Tr. at 24). Thus, the ALJ found that Fink 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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