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Laplante v. Colvin

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

October 6, 2014

VINCENT PAUL LAPLANTE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Vincent Paul LaPlante ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying his application for 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. 5.[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's application for DIB and SSI was filed on October 16, 2006. (Tr. 101-110). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to bi-polar and back problems. (Tr. 131). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of June 30, 2001. (Tr. 131). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 54-66). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 70-72).

Plaintiff's initial administrative hearing was held on November 5, 2008. (Tr. 19-49). Following this on, January 15, 2009, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 7-18). On February 17, 2011, the District Court remanded the case to the Commissioner for further consideration pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Tr. 596-605).

Following this, Plaintiff had a second administrative hearing on February 7, 2012. (Tr. 535-579). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Thomas McGowan, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff, his mother Wanda LaPlante, and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), had completed the tenth grade and obtained a GED. (Tr. 24).

On March 2, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 512-528). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2006. (Tr. 514, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 30, 2001, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 514, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, morbid obesity, seizure disorder (stable/medically controlled) and anxiety/depression. (Tr. 514, Finding 3). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 515, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 516-526). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. The ALJ also found Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform light work with unlimited ability to operate hand and foot controls; can climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl occasionally; should avoid work at unprotected heights or around moving machinery, as well as work requiring the use of firearms or the operation of motor vehicles; and is restricted to work where interpersonal contact is only incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks are learned and performed by rote with few variables and requiring little judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct and concrete. (Tr. 516-517, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 526, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW as a casino card dealer. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 527, Finding 10). The ALJ based his determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the requirements of a representative occupation such as a hand packer with approximately 3, 200 such jobs in Arkansas and 400, 000 such jobs in the nation, and as a hotel-motel maid/industrial cleaner with approximately 5, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 400, 000 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from June 30, 2001 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 528, Finding 11).

On October 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 17, 2013. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 15. 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 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), ...


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