United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Steven Lee Hussong ("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 application for a period of disability, Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") 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 P. K. Holmes, III 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.
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB and SSI on August 12, 2011. (Tr. 12, 146-154). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to back pain, diabetic, legally blind in left eye, arthritis in knees, hands and spine, COPD, and depression. (Tr. 167). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 5, 2008. (Tr. 12, 148). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 12, 102-108, 121-123). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 124).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 9, 2013. (Tr. 56-79). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Patrick McDaniel, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Dianne Smith 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 an eleventh grade education. (Tr. 60).
On February 6, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 12-24). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 5, 2008, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).
The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of disorders of the back, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes mellitus, obesity, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (Tr. 14, Finding 3). The ALJ also 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. 15, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 17-21). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform light work, except he could not engage in frequent bending or crouching; could not be exposed to concentrated amounts of repertory irritants, temperature changes, or humidity; could not perform tasks requiring binocular vision; limited to unskilled work, but could perform work where interpersonal contact was incidental contact to the work performed, where the tasks could be learned and performed by rote and involved few variations and little judgment, and where work required supervision that was simple direct and concrete; and could not deal with the general public. (Tr. 17, Finding 5).
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW as a cook helper, custodian, and auto parts clerk. Id. However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 22, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform occupations such as a cleaner for small parts with 240, 000 such jobs nationally and 16, 000 such jobs in the region, and as a bench assembler with 325, 000 such jobs nationally and 45, 000 such jobs in the region. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from his onset date or from May 5, 2008 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-4). On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. 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), ...