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Martinez v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

January 8, 2015

REBECCA LATRIECE MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Rebecca Latriece Martinez ("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 application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title 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. 5.[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 her disability application on June 23, 2011.[2] (Tr. 8, 93-99). In her application, Plaintiff claims to be disabled due to the following: lumbar fusion, post-surgery problems with her back, bursitis, uneven hips, hip pain, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 122). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 27, 2011. (Tr. 8, 93). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 30-31).

Thereafter, on November 21, 2011, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 45-47, 61-65). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on September 6, 2012 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 19-29). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mary May testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty (40) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008), and had only completed the seventh grade in school. (Tr. 22-23).

After this hearing, on October 26, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 5-14). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since her alleged onset date of June 27, 2011. (Tr. 10, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar fusion, bursitis, uneven hips, hypertension, and obesity. (Tr. 10-11, Finding 2). However, 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. 11, Finding 3).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 11-13, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:

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 416.967(a) with occasional bending, crouching, crawling, kneeling and climbing ramps/stairs but not ladders, ropes or scaffolds or balancing.

Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff did not have any PRW. (Tr. 13, Finding 5). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 13-14, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following representative occupation: license clerk or order clerk with 341, 600 such jobs in the national economy and 2, 670 such jobs in the regional economy. (Tr. 14). 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, since her alleged onset date of June 17, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 10).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 4). On September 25, 2013, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on November 8, 2013. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on November 11, 2013. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11-12. 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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