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Wakefield v. Colvin

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

September 30, 2014

ALEX WAKEFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ERIN L. SETSER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Alex Wakefield, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claim for child's insurance benefits (CDB) and supplemental security income (SSI) under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 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:

Plaintiff protectively filed his current applications for CDB and SSI on June 23, 2011, alleging an inability to work since June 22, 2011, due to Asperger's Syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. (Tr. 148, 190, 197). An administrative hearing was held on July 25, 2012, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 25-64).

By written decision dated November 1, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe - pervasive developmental disorder, ADHD, mathematics disorder, borderline intellectual functioning (BIF), depressive disorder, not otherwise specified (NOS), and anxiety disorder, NOS. (Tr. 12). However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 13). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: he is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed and does not involve contact with the general public; the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables and use of little judgment; and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.

(Tr. 15). With the help of the vocational expert (VE), the ALJ determined that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff would be able to perform such jobs as a dishwasher, machine tender, and assembler. (Tr. 60-61).

Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on August 14, 2013. (Tr. 2-4). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 12, 13).

The Court has reviewed th entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

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. Ramirez v. Barnhart , 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart , 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari , 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, 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. 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 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 also 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)(D). A Plaintiff must show that his disability, not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.

The Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant had engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his claim; (2) whether the claimant had a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) met or equaled an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevented the claimant from doing past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant was able to perform other work in the national economy given his age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the ...


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