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Morris v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

May 26, 2015

DARREN D. MORRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Darren Morris ("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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") 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 March 11, 2011. (Tr. 11, 141-154). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a nerve injury, diabetes, depression, knee and leg problems, and circulation problems. (Tr. 196). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of November 30, 2009. (Tr. 11, 155, 196). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 11, 76-82, 89-93).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 94-96). On January 8, 2013, the ALJ held an administrative hearing to address Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 30-71). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Frederick Spencer. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Jim Spragins testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-three (43) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), and had an eighth grade education. (Tr. 36).

After this hearing, on March 1, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-24). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through March 1, 2013. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") for a continuous 12 month period. (Tr. 15, Finding 4).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the cervical spine, hypertension, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, and mood disorder. (Tr. 15, Finding 5). 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, Finding 6).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 19-22, Finding7). 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 except he can use his dominant right upper extremity frequently, but not repetitively, and can only do work with simple tasks and simple instructions. Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff was able to perform his PRW as an office helper and mail clerk. (Tr. 23, Finding 8). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from November 30, 2009 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 9).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 5). On April 8, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on June 2, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 10, 2014. ECF No. 7. 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), ...


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