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Johnson v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

July 1, 2014

MICHELLE L. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Michelle L. Johnson ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title 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. 5.[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 protectively filed her SSI application on September 28, 2009. (Tr. 10, 221-226). In her application, Plaintiff claims to be disabled due to the following: "Rod in left hip and knee, I have L4 and L5 discs are slipped, and I am diabetic, and a learing [learning] disability, I also have a learning disability." (Tr. 257). Plaintiff claims she is unable to work because "my back and leg hurts if I sit for a long period of time." Id. Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2003.[2] (Tr. 10). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 64-65). Thereafter, on June 29, 2010, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 78-79).

Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on April 18, 2012 in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 28-57). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Ms. Parker[3] testified at this hearing. Id. As of the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-three (43) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008). (Tr. 32). As for her level of education, she completed the eleventh grade, did not graduate from high school, and did not obtain her GED. (Tr. 33).

On July 2, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 7-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since September 28, 2009, her application date. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post left hip fracture with early osteoarthritis and mild lumbar degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 12-13, Finding 2). However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 13, Finding 3).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 13-19, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a wide range of light work. (Tr. 13-18, Finding 4). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:

I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) [lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently]. Claimant sit, stand/walk for about 6 hours in an eight-hour workday. Claimant is not limited in pushing or pulling (including the operation of foot and/or hand controls) with the upper and lower extremities. Claimant can occasionally perform all postural activities. Claimant has no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. She does not have a severe mental impairment.

Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"), and the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 19, Finding 5). The ALJ then evaluated whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19-20, Finding 9). The ALJ relied upon the testimony of the VE at the administrative hearing in this matter to make that determination. Id.

Specifically, based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following three occupations: (1) cashier (light, unskilled) with approximately 1, 500 such jobs in Arkansas and 250, 000 such jobs in the nation; (2) parking lot attendant (light, unskilled) with approximately 400 such jobs in Arkansas and 190, 000 such jobs in the nation; and (3) fast food worker (light, unskilled) with approximately 2, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 160, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 19-20, Finding 9). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, before or after September 28, 2009 through the date of his decision or through July 2, 2012. (Tr. 20, Finding 10).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 27). On August 15, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on September 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 10, 2013. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11-12. 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) (2006); 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 ...


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