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Green v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

November 25, 2014

EVA J. GREEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Eva J. Green ("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 her 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 her disability applications on December 18, 2008. (Tr. 238-249).[1] In her applications, Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to problems with her left leg, bad headaches, cellulitis, and vision problems. (Tr. 277). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 18, 2008, which was later amended to August 1, 2009. (Tr. 12, 277). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 111-114, 154-157).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 158-159). An initial administrative hearing was held on April 8, 2010. (Tr. 68-110). On September 1, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 115-137). Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 198). The Appeals Council granted her request for review on April 11, 2012, and remanded her case to an ALJ for further proceedings. (Tr. 138-143).

A second administrative hearing was held on August 22, 2012. (Tr. 33-67). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Randolph Baltz at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") James Wallace testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-seven (47) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), had a tenth grade education and had obtained a GED. (Tr. 38, 42-43).

On October 26, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 12-24). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since August 1, 2009, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of low back pain due to dextroscoliosis and narrowing of the L5-S1 disc space, bilateral knee disorder, right eye blindness, headaches, hiatal hernia, obesity, mood disorder, and borderline personality disorder. (Tr. 12-13, Finding 3). 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 evaluated Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 16-22, 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 a range of unskilled sedentary work with limited ability to walk; can occasionally climb, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; due to right vision loss leading to poor depth perception, can perform no jobs requiring balancing, and is restricted from working on scaffolding or at unrestricted heights, and should not operate vehicles or drive a forklift; can understand, follow, and remember concrete instructions; and her contact with supervisors, co-workers and the public must be superficial. (Tr. 16, Finding 5).

The ALJ also evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 23, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable of performing her PRW as a secretary, receptionist, bartender, caregiver, and cashier. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 23, 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 document preparer with approximately 1, 050 such jobs in Arkansas and 118, 200 such jobs in the nation, charge account clerk with approximately 1, 300 such jobs in Arkansas and 130, 000 such jobs in the nation, and assembler with approximately 1, 380 such jobs in Arkansas and 88, 240 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 August 1, 2009 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 24, Finding 11).

Thereafter, on November 13, 2012, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-8). On October 18, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review the unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-6). On December 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 16, 17. 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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