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Burris v. Colvin

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

December 22, 2014

JOHNSON CURTIS BURRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Johnson Curtis Burris ("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 Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and a period of disability under Title II 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. 9.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on October 9, 2009. (Tr. 12, 237-240). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to a rod in right leg, two heart stints, COPD, and right ankle pain. (Tr. 266). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of September 22, 2009. (Tr. 233). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 88-89). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 110-111).

Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on May 17, 2011. (Tr. 63-87). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Matthew Golden, at this hearing. Id. On June 21, 2011, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 90-103). On September 12, 2011, the Appeals Council remanded the case back to the ALJ for further consideration. (Tr. 104).

Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held on August 21, 2012. (Tr. 24-62). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Matthew Golden, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff, Medical Expert ("ME") Sterling Henry Moore, and Vocational Expert ("VE") Russell Bowden, testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-eight (48) years old, and had graduated from high school. (Tr. 29-30).

On September 19, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 12-19). 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 September 22, 2009. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of status post right ankle fusion, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary artery disease, replacement of right kneecap, and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. (Tr. 14, Finding 3). The ALJ then 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. 14, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 14-17). 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 lift up to ten pounds occasionally and lift and carry less than ten pounds frequently; to stand and walk for two hours of an eight-hour workday; and to sit for six hours of an eight-hour workday, with the option to sit/stand at thirty minutes interval for one-to-two minutes; occasional postural limitations of no climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds; and avoid work around pulmonary irritants. (Tr. 14, Finding 5).

The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 17, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform his PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 18, 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 an eyeglass frame packager, lamp shade assembler, and lens inspector with approximately 120, 000 such jobs in the region and 1, 200, 000 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 September 22, 2009 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 19, Finding 11).

On November 13, 2013, the Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-7). On January 13, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 22, 2014. ECF No. 9. 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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