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Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

July 7, 2014

TONY RAY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Tony Ray Williams ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and a period of disability 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. 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 his application for SSI on June 17, 2010. (Tr. 17, 113-116). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to arthritis, back problems, heart problems, and chest pain. (Tr. 128). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of October 1, 2006. (Tr. 102). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr.17, 66-67). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 76-77).

Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on July 28, 2011. (Tr. 34-65). Plaintiff was present and represented by Eric Worsham, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of the hearing, Plaintiff was forty-four (44) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), and had a high school education. (Tr. 37).

On January 23, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's request for SSI. (Tr. 17-24). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 17, 2010. (Tr. 19, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had severe impairments of back pain, osteoarthritis, kidney problems, hypertension, coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, and stomach problems. (Tr. 19, Finding 2). The ALJ also determined the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments contained in the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 19, Finding 3).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 20-23, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the full range of light work. (Tr. 20, Finding 4).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr.16, Finding 6). The ALJ determined that although Plaintiff had worked in the past, his earnings fell below SGA, therefore, he had no PRW. Id. The ALJ then used Medical-Vocational Guidelines Rule 202.20 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, § 201.27. (Tr. 23, Finding 9). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not been under a "disability, " as defined by the Act, at any time since June 17, 2010. (Tr. 24, Finding 10).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 12-13). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(b)(2). On April 1, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review this determination. (Tr. 1-4). On June 3, 2013, Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to this Court. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 11. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 18, 2013. ECF No. 7.

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 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), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a "substantial gainful activity"; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at ...


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