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Morrison v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

December 16, 2014

CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Alton Britt Morrison ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and a period of disability under Title XVI of the Act.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2005), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to the Honorable Barry A. Bryant for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. The Court, having reviewed the entire transcript and relevant briefing, recommends the ALJ's determination be AFFIRMED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on May 10, 2010. (Tr. 11, 95-98).[1] Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to pectus excavatum, anorexia nervosa, staggered/shortness of breath, and chest pain. (Tr. 116). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of December 2, 2009. (Tr. 116). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 50-53).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application. (Tr. 56-60). This hearing request was granted, and a hearing was held on March 22, 2011. (Tr. 19-42). On April 6, 2011, the ALJ rendered a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 11-18). After the Appeal Council denied review, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, and the Court remanded the case back to the agency for further administrative proceedings and a new decision. (Tr. 309-322). Pursuant to the Court's remand, the Appeals Council vacated the April 6, 2011, order, and remanded the case back to an ALJ for further proceedings. (Tr. 323-26).

A second hearing was held on October 8, 2013. (Tr. 269-297). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel, Susan Brockett. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Jim Spragins testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-six (36) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008), and had an Associates Degree. (Tr. 272).

On October 21, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 254-262). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 10, 2010. (Tr. 256, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of scoliosis, pectus excavatum status post repair, and cardiac dysrhythmia. (Tr. 256, Finding 2). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 256, Finding 3).

In this decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 256-260). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 258). Second, the ALJ determined, based upon this review of Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the hearing testimony, and the evidence in the record, Plaintiff retained the RFC for sedentary work with the ability to occasionally lift and carry 10 pounds and frequently less than 10 pounds; sit for six hours; stand and walk for 2 hours during an 8-hour workday; work overhead frequently; occasionally climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop, and crouch; but could not climb ladders and ropes, crawl, or kneel; and must avoid hazards, including moving machinery and unprotected heights. (Tr. 256-257, Finding 4).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 261, Finding 7). The ALJ found Plaintiff had no PRW. Id. The ALJ also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 261, Finding 8). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 293-296). Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the ability to perform other work such as a small product assembler with 68, 000 such jobs in the nation, machine tender with 2, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 500, 000 such jobs in the nation, and as a final assembler with 4, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 203, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 261). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not been under a "disability, " as defined by the Act, at any time through the date of his decision. (Tr. 262, Finding 9).

On January 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 12. 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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