Barajas v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT. Signed by Honorable Erin L. Wiedemann on September 14, 2017. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
TINA M. BARAJAS
CIVIL NO. 3:16-CV-3085
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, 1 Acting Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT
Plaintiff, Tina M. Barajas, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking
judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(DIB) under the provision of Title II of the Social Security Act (Act). In this judicial review,
the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to
support the Commissioner’s decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff protectively filed her current application for DIB on July 8, 2013, alleging an
inability to work since April 1, 2013, due to depression, severe arthritis in the knee, neck and
heel, stenosis, and chronic pain. (Tr. 77, 89). For DIB purposes, Plaintiff maintained insured
status through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 77, 89). An administrative hearing was held on March
3, 2015, at which Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s sister, and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 26-75).
Nancy A. Berryhill, has been appointed to serve as acting Commissioner of Social Security, and is substituted as
Defendant, pursuant to Rule 25(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
By written decision dated May 12, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe
impairments of severe tricompartmental degenerative changes of the right knee, cervical
spondylosis, and morbid obesity. (Tr. 14). However, after reviewing all of the evidence
presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal the level of
severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart
P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 16). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR § 404.1567(a), except that
Plaintiff could only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl, and only
occasional pushing and pulling with the right lower extremity. (Tr. 16). With the help of a
vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past
relevant work as an administrative assistant. (Tr. 21).
Plaintiff then requested review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied that request on May 25, 2016. (Tr. 5-8). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc.
1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Docs. 5, 6).
Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 12, 13).
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 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, No. 08-0089, 2008 WL 4816675 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 31, 2008) (summarily affirming
ALJ’s denial of disability benefits), aff’d, 364 Fed. Appx. 307 (8th Cir. 2010).
IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this 14th day of September, 2017.
/s/ Erin L. Wiedemann
HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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