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Walker v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

October 6, 2014

ANTHONY LARAY WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Anthony Laray Walker ("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 a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") 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. 6.[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 protectively filed his disability applications on December 6, 2010. (Tr. 12, 105-112). In his applications, Plaintiff claims to be disabled due to the following: high blood pressure, diabetes, left knee limitations, left shoulder limitations, and ulcers. (Tr. 154). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 8, 2009. (Tr. 12, 105, 109). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 43-46). Thereafter, on September 30, 2011, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 64-71). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on July 24, 2012 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 24-42). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Sherri McDonough. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Betsy Ford testified at this hearing. Id.

After this hearing, on September 19, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 9-19). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2012. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since August 8, 2009, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes, hypertension, left shoulder pain, and status post arthroscopy for left knee medial meniscus tear. (Tr. 14-15, Finding 3). However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments 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, Finding 4).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 17, Finding 8). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff was forty-two (42) years old on his alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 17, Finding 7). This 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).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15-17, 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 RFC to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except sit/stand option at will to perform job related activities and unskilled entry level employment only.

Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 17, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff's PRW included work as an oyster shucker (light), a pipe layer helper (very heavy), and a ditch digger (very heavy). Id. Based upon his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of his PRW. Id.

The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following representative occupations: (1) ticket seller (light) with 39, 000 such jobs in the nation and 340 such jobs in Arkansas; and (2) cashier (light) with 1, 700, 000 such jobs in the nation and 14, 000 such jobs in Arkansas (with the numbers reduced by 50% as a result of the sit or stand option). Id. In accordance with the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from August 8, 2009 through the date of his decision or through September 19, 2012. (Tr. 18-19, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6). On August 30, 2013, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on September 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 4, 2013. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9-10. 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) (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 ...


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