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Chamness v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

July 8, 2014

ALAN CHAMNESS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. MARSCHEWSKI, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). 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).

I. Procedural Background:

The plaintiff filed an applications for SSI on June 2, 2010, alleging an onset date of June 1, 2009, due to plaintiff's advanced cirrhosis (T. 151). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held on September 6, 2011. Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel.

At the time of the administrative hearing, plaintiff was 54 years of age and possessed a 12th grade education. The Plaintiff had past relevant work ("PRW") experience as a dairy stocker, general laborer, and warehouse employee (T. 152).

On January 24, 2012, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") concluded that, although severe, plaintiff's cirrhosis of the liver and anxiety disorder did not meet or equal any Appendix 1 listing. T. 15. The ALJ found that plaintiff maintained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work involving no more than incidental contact with co-workers, supervisors, or the general public. T. 17. With the assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ then determined Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a Highway Maintenance Worker. T. 22.

II. Applicable Law:

This court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. Id. "Our review extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's decision; we also consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision." Id. As long as there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision, the court may not reverse the decision simply because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a contrary outcome, or because the court would have decided the case differently. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If the court finds it possible "to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence, and one of those positions represents the Secretary's findings, the court must affirm the decision of the Secretary." Cox, 495 F.3d at 617 (internal quotation and alteration omitted).

It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines "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 disability, not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir. 1993).

The Commissioner's regulations require him to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).

III. Discussion:

The court has reviewed the Briefs filed by the Parties, the Transcript of the proceedings before the Commission, including a review of the hearing before the ALJ, the medical records, and relevant administrative records and finds the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence.

A. Step Two Analysis:

The Plaintiff contends the ALJ committed error in failing to find that his numbness in his leg, tremors in his hands, muscle wasting and atrophy, and varicose veins ...


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