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Johnson v. Colvin

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

June 22, 2015

CHARLES RANDEL JOHNSON, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Charles Randel Johnson, Sr. ("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. 9.[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 September 23, 2011. (Tr. 11, 156-165). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to back and breathing problems. (Tr. 190). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of June 3, 2011. (Tr. 11). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 58-64, 68-71).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 74-75). On July 15, 2013, the ALJ held an administrative hearing to address Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 36-49). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Michael Angel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Tammie Donaldson 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 a ninth grade education. (Tr. 38-39).

After this hearing, on August 9, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 11-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through June 30, 2015. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 3, 2011, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).

The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. (Tr. 13, Finding 3). 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. 15, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 16-19, 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 lift or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently, and to walk and stand for two hours in an 8-hour work day and to sit for six hours in an 8-hour workday; but he should avoid climbing, ladders, ropes, scaffolds, and crawling, and avoid exposure to cold, heat, wetness, humidity, vibrations, fumes, odors, and dust. Id.

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 19, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19-20, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) lens inserter with 29, 000 such jobs in the United States and 500 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) telephone quotation clerk with 83, 000 such jobs in the United States and 600 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) document preparer with 96, 000 such jobs in the United States and 800 such jobs in the 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 June 3, 2011 through the date of his decision. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 6). On August 18, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on October 9, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 17, 2014. ECF No. 9. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14, 15. 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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