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Neitzel v. Colvin

United States District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

March 16, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



Irma Neitzel (“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 a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 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 filed her disability application on September 20, 2011. (Tr. 14, 113-114). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to nerve damage in her right arm and hand. (Tr. 135). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 14, 2011. (Tr. 14). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 45-46).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 56-80). On October 25, 2012, the ALJ held an administrative hearing to address Plaintiff’s application. (Tr. 26-44). This hearing was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Id. Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth Clem testified at this hearing. Id.

After this hearing, on January 23, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s application for DIB. (Tr. 11-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2016. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 14, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 16, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post fracture of the right humerus and joint dysfunction. (Tr. 16, Finding 3). 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. 16-17, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 17-19, Finding 5). 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is to have no rapid, repetitive, flexion or extension of the hands.

Id. The “light work” includes the following:

(b) Light work. Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying objects weighing up to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good deal of walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls. To be considered capable of performing a full or wide range of light work, you must have the ability to substantially all of these activities. If someone can do light work, we determine that he or she can also do sedentary work, unless there are additional limiting factors such as loss of fine dexterity or inability to sit for long periods of time.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) (2012). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was fifty-four (54) years old on her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 20, Finding 7). Such a person is characterized as an individual “closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008). Id. The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 20, Finding 8).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the VE determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform work as a personal care assistant with approximately 3, 400 such jobs in Arkansas and 350, 000 such jobs in the national economy. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from September 14, 2011 through the date of her decision or through January 23, 2013. (Tr. 21, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council’s review of the ALJ’s unfavorable decision. (Tr. 8). On March 12, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on April 10, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction ...

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