United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Lance Darin Thompson ("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. 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. 7. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on July 17, 2011 (DIB) and on July 19, 2011 (SSI). (Tr. 18). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a knee injury, arthritis, high blood pressure, past heatstroke, and obesity. (Tr. 145). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of May 6, 2011. (Tr. 145). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 54-57). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 74-83).
On September 6, 2012, this hearing was held in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 33-53). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by Donald Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Elizabeth Clem testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-five (45) years old, which 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). (Tr. 37). Plaintiff also testified he had a high school diploma. Id.
After the hearing, on September 28, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 18-28). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2016. (Tr. 20, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 6, 2011, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 30, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis bilateral knees, wrist swelling, hypertension, and morbid obesity. (Tr. 20-21, 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. 21, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 21-26, 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 following RFC:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that the claimant may occasionally lift and carry 10 pounds and frequently lift and carry less than 10 pounds; the claimant may stand and walk at least 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; the claimant may sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; the claimant may occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; the claimant may occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; and the claimant may never work at unprotected heights.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 26, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue and testified Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform 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. 26-27, Finding 10). The VE also testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id.
Specifically, the VE testified, given all of these factors, Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as assembler (unskilled, sedentary) with 1, 300 such jobs in Arkansas and 150, 000 such jobs in the nation; dispatcher (semiskilled, sedentary) with 700 such jobs in Arkansas and 180, 000 such jobs in the nation; and inspector or sorter (sedentary) with 1, 100 such jobs in Arkansas and 140, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 27). Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 26-27, Finding 10). Because he retained the capacity to perform other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from his alleged onset date of May 6, 2011 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through September 28, 2012. (Tr. 27, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 14). On August 30, 2013, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On October 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 7, 2013. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10-11. 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) (2010); 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 ...