Goff v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Barry A. Bryant on January 10, 2019. (mjm)
IN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
Civil No. 2:18-cv-02025
NANCY A. BERRYHILL
Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Lamai Goff, (“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”) under Title II of the Act.
The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all
proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and
conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this
memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB on November 17, 2015. (Tr. 16). In this
application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, back
pain, depression, chronic pain, blurry vision. (Tr. 134). This application was denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 16).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr.
70-71). Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on February 21, 2017. (Tr. 28-43). At this hearing,
Plaintiff was present but was not represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff, her husband Kevin Goff, and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Larry Seifert testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff
was forty-six (46) years old and had a high school education. (Tr. 31, 135).
On April 26, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s application for
DIB. (Tr. 16-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 18, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not
engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) from her alleged onset date of September 9, 2013
through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 18, Finding 2).
The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had the following medically determinable impairments: diabetes
mellitus, hypertension, asthma, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 18 Finding 3). However, the ALJ also found
that through the date last insured, Plaintiff did not have an impairment, or combination of impairments,
that significantly limited her ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months;
therefore, she did not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments. (Tr. 18 Finding 4). Based
upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from
September 9, 2013, through December 13, 2013, the date last insured. (Tr. 18, Finding 5).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council’s review of the ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 109-112).
The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On February 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. This case is now
ready for decision.
It is 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. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not
simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. §
To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the
familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in
a “substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits
the claimant’s physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an
impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the
claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has
the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant
cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in
the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the plaintiff’s age, education, and work experience in light
of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).
Plaintiff brings the present appeal claiming the ALJ erred: (A) by failing to properly develop the
record, and (B) in the evaluation of Plaintiff’s impairments. ECF No. 15, Pgs. 1-4. In response, Defendant
argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings. ECF No. 16.
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
support the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains
substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d
742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, 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. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
The Court has reviewed the entire transcript and the parties’ briefs. For the reasons stated in the
ALJ’s well-reasoned opinion and in the Government’s brief, the Court finds Plaintiff’s arguments on
appeal to be without merit and finds that the record as a whole reflects substantial evidence to support the
ALJ’s decision. Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision is hereby summarily affirmed and Plaintiff’s Complaint
is dismissed with prejudice. See Sledge v. Astrue, 364 Fed. Appx. 307 (8th Cir. 2010)(district court
summarily affirmed the ALJ).
Based on the foregoing, the undersigned finds that the decision of the ALJ, denying benefits to
Plaintiff, is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. A judgment incorporating these
findings will be entered pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52 and 58.
ENTERED this 10th day of January 2019.
Barry A. Bryant
HON. BARRY A. BRYANT
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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