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Storey v. Covlin

United States District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

May 6, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



Plaintiff, Douglas Storey, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter “the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(3)(A). In this judicial review, the court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner’s decision. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

I. Procedural Background:

Plaintiff filed his application for DIB and SSI on March 13, 2012, alleging an onset date of January 15, 2012, due to emphysema, low back and neck pain. (T. 201) Plaintiff’s applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (T. 83-85, 86-88, 93-94, 96-98). Plaintiff then requested an administration hearing, which was held in front of Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Bill Jones, on January 24, 2013.

At the time of the hearing Plaintiff was 51 years of age and had graduated from high school. His past relevant work experience included playing guitar, singing in a band, working as a truck driver from 1995 to 2000, a construction worker from 1980 to 2010, at a lumber mill from April 2011 to June 2012, on a drilling rig in January 2012, and at a chicken plant from October 2011 to January 2012, and August 2012 to October 2012. (T. 177, 202)

On March 28, 2013, the ALJ found Plaintiff’s disorder of the back severe, however the ALJ found Plaintiff’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), right upper quadrant abdominal pain, nephrolithiasis and gallbladder contraction non-severe, as they did not cause more than minimal limitation in his ability to do basic work like tasks. (T. 28) Considering the Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience and the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) based upon all of his impairments, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled from January 15, 2012, through March 28, 2013. (T. 33) The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, except he could only occasionally: climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. (T. 29)

Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, but said request for review was denied on November 5, 2013. (T. 1-4) Plaintiff then filed this action on December 20, 2013. (Doc. 1) This case is before the undersigned pursuant to consent of the parties. (Doc. 6) Both parties have filed briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (Doc. 10 and 11)

II. Applicable Law:

This Court’s role is to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d. 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). “Substantial evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the Commissioner’s decision.” Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000). “Our review extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the ALJ’s decision; we also consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision.” Cox, v. Asture, 495 F.3d 617, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). The AJL’s decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d, 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). The Court considers the evidence that “supports as well as detracts from the Commissioner’s decision, and we will not reverse simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion.” Hamilton v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2008). 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. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d at 1068.

It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines “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), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply their impairments, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir. 1993).

If such an impairment exists, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has demonstrated that he is unable to perform either his past relevant work, or any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (20 C.F.R. §416.945). The ALJ applies a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled. (20 C.F.R. §404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the plaintiff’s age, education, and work experience in light of his or her residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. §404.150, 416.920 (2003).

III. Evidence Presented:

The medical evidence is as follows.

On January 11, 2007, Plaintiff went to the emergency room at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, in Gillette, Wyoming, after he slipped on ice and hit his chin on a sawhorse. (T. 323, 328) Plaintiff had a loose tooth and a laceration inside of his mouth. (T. 327) The doctor advised him to see a ...

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