Kotlowski v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Erin L. Wiedemann on January 12, 2018. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
DAWN M. KOTLOWSKI
CIVIL NO. 16-3096
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, 1 Commissioner
Social Security Administration
Plaintiff, Dawn M. Kotlowski, 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 claims for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions 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 June 25, 2013, alleging
an inability to work since October 1, 2011, due to vision loss. (Tr. 76, 146). An administra tive
hearing was held on October 28, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified.
By written decision dated July 24, 2015, the ALJ found that during the relevant time
period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 10).
Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: left eye blindness
1 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.
due to optic neuritis, probable multiple sclerosis, depression, adjustment disorder and anxiety.
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. 11). The ALJ found
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claima nt
cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She must avoid concentrated exposure
to hazards including no driving as part of work but she can avoid normal
hazards in the workplace. She cannot perform jobs that require depth
perception, field of vision or more than occasional accommodation. The
claimant is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the
work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with
few variables and little use of judgment, and the supervision required is simple,
direct and concrete.
(Tr. 12). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform
work as a housekeeper, and a price marker. (Tr. 20).
Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied that request on July 12, 2016. (Tr. 1-3). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc.
1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both
parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 10, 11).
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 substantia l
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 inconsis te nt
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 affir ming
ALJ’s denial of disability benefits), aff’d, 364 Fed. Appx. 307 (8th Cir. 2010).
IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this 12th day of January 2018.
/s/ Erin L. Wiedemann
HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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