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Doelling v. Colvin

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

October 20, 2014

JOE DOELLING, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Joe Doelling ("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.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments of counsel, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on April 13, 2011. (Tr. 179-195).[1] In his applications, Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to bad back, bone spurs in shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, and depression. (Tr. 179, 189, 208, 283). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of February 15, 2011. (Tr. 179, 189). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 61-67, 71-75).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 76-77). An administrative hearing was held on August 20, 2012. (Tr. 26-49). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Michael Angel at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff, Medical Expert ("ME") John Moore, Psychological Expert (PE") Albert Smith, and Vocational Expert ("VE") Russell Bowden 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), and had a high school education. (Tr. 29).

On September 12, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 10-19). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since February 15, 2011, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of chronic back pain, status post carpal tunnel release, and right shoulder surgery. (Tr. 12, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). (Tr. 14, Finding 4).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 15-17, Finding 5). In making this determination, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform light work, except that on the left side, Plaintiff can only perform fine and gross movements frequently. (Tr. 15, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff capable of performing his PRW as a barber. (Tr. 17-18, Finding 6). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform his PRW, the ALJ determined he had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from February 15, 2011 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 19, Finding 7).

Thereafter, on November 19, 2012, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6). On November 26, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review the unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-5). On January 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 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) (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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