United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
John William Patterson ("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. 7. 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 October 12, 2010. (Tr. 12, 100-111). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to ankle pain, depression, hypothyroid, memory loss, back pain, and shoulder pain. (Tr. 118). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 31, 2010. (Tr. 12). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 56-59).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 26-55, 73). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on November 29, 2011 in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Tr. 26-55). Plaintiff was present at this hearing but was not represented by counsel at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") James Wallace testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was fifty-nine (59) years old, which is defined as a "person of advanced age" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(e) (2008) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(e) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 31). Plaintiff also testified he had obtained his obtained his high school diploma. (Tr. 34).
After the hearing, on March 28, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 9-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2012. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since March 31, 2010, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthrosis, obesity, substance addiction disorder-drugs, and depression. (Tr. 14, Finding 3). Despite the severity of these impairments, however, the ALJ also determined they 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. 15-16, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 16-19, 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 medium work. He can use the left non-dominant arm occasionally for overhead reaching, and perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to work performed; complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, little judgment and supervision required is simple, direct and concrete.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 19, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 20, 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 occupations such as a cook's helper (medium, unskilled) with 554, 000 such jobs in the national economy and 4, 450 such jobs in the local economy. 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 March 31, 2010 through the date of his decision or through March 28, 2012. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 8). On April 26, 2013, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr.1-4). On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 18, 2013. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10-11. 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), ...