United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
JAMES R. BROPHY, JR., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
James R. Brophy, Jr. ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), 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. 8. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on September 22, 2009 (DIB) and September 28, 2009 (SSI). (Tr. 14). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a broken back. (Tr. 194). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 24, 2009. (Tr. 14). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 86-89). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 71-85, 102-103). Plaintiff's initial administrative hearing was held on January 3, 2011. Id. During this hearing, the ALJ noted that further record development was necessary. Id. Accordingly, the ALJ ordered additional testing and then held a second administrative hearing. Id.
On November 15, 2011, the second administrative hearing was held in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 26-70). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by Darrell Brown. Id. Plaintiff, Medical Expert ("ME") Charles Murphy, Psychology Expert ("PE") Albert Smith, and Vocational Expert ("VE") Judy Komerov testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-seven (47) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 45). Plaintiff also testified he had obtained his GED. (Tr. 46).
After the hearing, on January 11, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since July 24, 2009, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 16, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairment: status post motor vehicle accident with residual thoracic surgery with Harrington rod fixation. (Tr. 16-18, Finding 3). Despite the severity of this impairment, the ALJ also determined it 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. 18, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 18-21, Finding 5). 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 following RFC:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except with the following limitations: no ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; perform all other postural activities occasionally; occasionally push and pull; and, no exposure to vibration.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 21, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21-22, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) lens inserter (sedentary, unskilled) with 100, 000 such jobs in the nation and 3, 000 such jobs in the state; (2) semiconductor bonder (sedentary, unskilled) with 24, 000 such jobs in the nation and 1, 100 such jobs in the state; and (3) surveillance systems monitor (sedentary, unskilled) with 79, 000 such jobs in the nation and 1, 500 such jobs in the state. Id. Because he retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from July 24, 2009 through the date of his decision or through January 11, 2012. (Tr. 22, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 8). On February 8, 2013, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 3-5). On June 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 25, 2013. ECF No. 8. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 13. 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), ...