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Fletcher v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division.

June 30, 2014

RYLAND H. FLETCHER, III, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Ryland Fletcher, III ("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 his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), and a period of disability under Titles II and XVI 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. 7.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

1. Background:

Plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits on July 22, 2008. (Tr. 108-116). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to depression and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg. (Tr. 132). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of April 29, 2008. (Tr. 132). These applications were denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 68-78, 82-85).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 86-87). Plaintiff's initial hearing was held on July 30, 2009 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 26-67). On February 24, 2010, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 10-21). That decision was appealed, and on May 15, 2012, United States Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant entered a Memorandum Opinion remanding the matter for further consideration. (Tr. 327-334).

Following this, Plaintiff had a second administrative hearing on his applications and his hearing was held on December 19, 2012. (Tr. 288-303). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Sherry McDonough, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his application and requested a closed period of disability from the onset date of April 29, 2008, through October 1, 2010 when he returned to full time employment as a security guard. (Tr. 271).

On January 31, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 271-283). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through June 30, 2015. (Tr. 273, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") from April 29, 2008, his alleged onset date, through October 1, 2010, the date he returned to full time employment. (Tr. 273, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of status post anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction of the left knee and arthofibrosis of the left knee. (Tr. 273, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 and No. 16 ("Listings"). (Tr. 276, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 277-281, Finding 5). The ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not fully credible. (Tr. 280). The ALJ also determined, based upon his review of Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the hearing testimony, and the evidence in the record, that Plaintiff retained the RFC for the full range of sedentary work. (Tr. 277, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 281). This included work as a delivery driver, maintenance man, laborer, grounds keeper, and fence manufacturer. Id. The ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 281, Finding 6). The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 282, Finding 10). The ALJ then used Medical-Vocational Guidelines Rule 201.25 to reach a conclusion of "not disabled, " based on Plaintiff's age, education, vocational background, and residual functional capacity. See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 2, § 203.25. (Tr. 282). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not been under a "disability, " as defined by the Act, at any time from April 29, 2008, his alleged onset date, through October 1, 2010, the date he returned to full time employment. (Tr. 282, Finding 11).

On May 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 12. This case is now ready for decision.

2. Applicable Law:

In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

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), ...


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