Submitted: January 17, 2019
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Jonesboro
LOKEN, GRASZ, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Despain appeals the district court's judgment that the
Social Security Administration ("SSA")
Commissioner's decision to deny her disability benefits
was supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.
is a 52-year old woman from Harrisburg, Arkansas, who
previously worked as a packaging machine operator at
Frito-Lay. She suffered from chronic pain and obesity. In
2015, some back spasms and other pain conditions kept her
away from work long enough that she exhausted her permitted
absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C.
§§ 2601-2654. Because she knew she was no longer
capable of working her old job, she resigned. She did not
apply for any new jobs.
2015, Despain applied for disability benefits, alleging
disability beginning on May 4, 2015. After the SSA denied her
claim initially and on reconsideration, she requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").
found Despain had six severe impairments: obesity,
osteoarthritis of both knees, degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine, pes planus (flat feet), anxiety, and
depression. The ALJ also found none of those impairments
individually nor the combination of them were severe enough
to satisfy the criteria for disability benefits under SSA
then determined Despain had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work with some
limitations. She would "need to sit or stand at
will" and be limited to work (1) "with no climbing
of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and no balancing
requirements," (2) with only "occasional climbing
of ramps and stairs, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling," and (3) "where no lower extremity foot
control operation is necessary." She also would be
"limited to unskilled, simple, routine, and repetitive
job tasks, where the supervision is simple, direct, and
concrete, consistent with specific vocational preparation
(SVP) 1 or 2 jobs that could be learned within thirty
Despain could not perform her past relevant work under this
RFC, testimony from a vocational expert indicated jobs with
her RFC are available in the United States economy. Based on
that testimony, the ALJ found Despain was not under a
disability as defined by the Social Security Act.
Social Security Appeals Council denied Despain's petition
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final administrative decision. Despain
filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Arkansas seeking
review. The district court affirmed the Commissioner's
decision, and Despain timely appealed.
Standard of Review
review de novo the district court's decision affirming
the denial of social security benefits and will affirm
"if the Commissioner's decision is supported by . .
. substantial evidence on the record as a whole."
Ash v. Colvin, 812 F.3d 686, 689 (8th Cir. 2016)
(quoting McNamara v. Astrue, 590 F.3d 607, 610 (8th
Cir. 2010)). "Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion." Id. (quoting McKinney v.
Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). If the record