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Bruton v. Colvin

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

February 4, 2015

WADE WALTER BRUTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Wade Walter Bruton ("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.[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 his disability applications on February 17, 2011. (Tr. 10, 139-153). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to mental problems. (Tr. 174). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 30, 1997. (Tr. 10). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 67-70).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 53-66). An administrative hearing was held on November 7, 2012 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Id. At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-seven (37) 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. 57). Plaintiff also testified at this hearing that he had completed the eighth grade in school and had obtained his GED. Id.

On January 14, 2013, subsequent to the hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 7-20). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 1997. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since February 17, 2011, his amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opioid dependence, and an anti-social personality disorder. (Tr. 13, 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. 13-15, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 15-18, 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 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 medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except the claimant is limited to work where interpersonal contact is limited, which is defined as occasional simple interaction with co-workers and supervisors. Furthermore, the claimant's interaction with the public is not essential to the performance of the job and is limited to answering simple questions. The claimant can perform work where the complexity of tasks can be learned within thirty days by repetition or demonstration. The claimant can perform work with few variables and little judgment with the supervision required being simple, direct, and concrete.

Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"), and the ALJ determined Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity, considering his age, education, PRW, and RFC, to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding that issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform two occupations: (1) janitor (medium, unskilled) with 6, 800 such jobs in the state, 170, 000 in the region, and 850, 000 in the nation; and (2) kitchen helper (medium, unskilled) with 4, 000 such jobs in the state, 85, 000 in the region, and 400, 000 in the nation. (Tr. 17). Because he retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from February 17, 2011 through the date of his decision or through January 14, 2013. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).

On February 5, 2013, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 5). On January 8, 2014, the Appeals Council declined to review this disability determination. (Tr. 1-3). On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on January 30, 2014. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 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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