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Bills v. Colvin

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

March 19, 2015

TERESA BILLS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Teresa Bills ("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 applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), and a period of disability 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 Robert T. Dawson 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 in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications on October 10, 2011. (Tr. 9, 137-144). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to leg cramps, depression, anxiety, diabetes, memory problems, and a "shifted hip." (Tr. 180). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 20, 2009. (Tr. 9). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 66-69).

Thereafter, on March 9, 2012, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications. (Tr. 90-92). This hearing request was granted. (Tr. 104-109). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on November 2, 2012 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 27-65). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Susan Brockett. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Dianne Smith testified at this hearing. Id. During 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) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 33). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had obtained her GED and also had obtained an associate's degree in criminal justice. (Tr. 35).

On January 15, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 6-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2013. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 20, 2009, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: joint dysfunction, morbid obesity, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety disorder, and mood disorder. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those 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. 12-14, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 14-21, 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) and 416.967(b) except she can occasionally climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; she can never climbing [climb] ladders; must avoid hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights; cannot sustain work without an option to sit/stand at will; and, she is able to understand, retain and carry out simple instructions; make simple work-related decisions; perform work where the complexity of the task is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, and with little judgment; work in an environment with few, if any, work place changes; perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; and work where supervision is simple, direct and concrete. She can use the left dominant hand occasionally for overhead reaching.

Id.

The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of her PRW. Id. The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21-22, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified, given Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, a hypothetical person with those limitations retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) machine tender (light, unskilled) with 2, 500 such jobs in the region and 15, 000 such jobs in the nation and (2) bakery line worker (light, unskilled) with 2, 700 such jobs in the region and 32, 000 such jobs in the nation. Id.

Based upon the VE's responses, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from her application date of June 20, 2009 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through January 15, 2013. (Tr. 22, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 4). On February 10, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On April 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have ...


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