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Pitts v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

May 28, 2015

DON PITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Don Pitts ("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 Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), 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 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 in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on February 8, 2012. (Tr. 11, 135-142). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to endocarditis, a heart valve implant, severe hearing loss (right ear), moderate hearing loss (left ear), lower back problems, neck pain, and joint problems. (Tr. 177). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of November 30, 2010. (Tr. 11). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 57-60).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 79-100). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on December 17, 2012 in Russellville, Arkansas. (Tr. 23-56). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Iva Gibbons. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Larry Seifert testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was fifty-one (51) years old, which is defined as a "person closely approaching advanced age" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d) (2008) (SSI). (Tr. 27). As for his education, Plaintiff testified he had obtained his GED. (Tr. 27-28).

On January 25, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 8-18). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since November 30, 2010, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees, coronary artery disease, a history of aortic valve replacement, and hearing loss. (Tr. 13, 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. 13-14, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 14-17, Finding 5). First, the ALJ 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 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 he can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs; he can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he can perform no overhead work or reaching; and he is unable to perform jobs which require excellent hearing.

Id.

The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 17-18, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff's PRW included work as a shipping supervisor. Id. Considering his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this PRW as a shipping supervisor. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this PRW, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from November 30, 2010 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through January 25, 2013. (Tr. 18, Finding 7).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6). On June 13, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On August 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9-10. 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) (2010); 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 ...


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