United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
John Breedlove, Jr. ("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 a period of disability, Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") 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 P. K. Holmes, III 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 of counsel, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on May 22, 2012 and SSI on May 24, 2012. (Tr. 11, 90-98). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to COPD, emphysema, arthritis, high blood pressure, and depression. (Tr. 127). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 12, 2012. (Tr. 11, 90, 92). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 11, 41-51, 54-58). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 58).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 24, 2013. (Tr. 24-40). Plaintiff was present, but was not represented by counsel at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Sarah Moore testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-one (41) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), and a GED. (Tr. 30).
On March 22, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-19). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2013. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since May 12, 2012, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).
The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of hypertension, COPD, and morbid obesity. (Tr. 13, Finding 3). The ALJ also 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. 15-18). 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 perform light work, but would need to work in a controlled environment with no dust and no temperature extremes. (Tr. 15, Finding 5).
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 18, Finding 8). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. Id. However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18, Finding 12). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform occupations such as machine tender with 296, 000 such jobs nationally and 3, 700 such jobs in Arkansas and cashier with 820, 000 such jobs nationally and 7, 000 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. 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 from his onset date or from May 12, 2012 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 19, Finding 13).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-4). On March 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 11. 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), ...