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Rea v. Colvin

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

July 29, 2015

RICKY C. REA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MARK E. FORD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Ricky Rea, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claim for a period of disability, 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(a)(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 applications for DIB and SSI on January 5, 2012, alleging an onset date of December 30, 2011, due to a heart attack in 2002, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. Tr. 116-121, 122-132, 172-173. The Commissioner denied his applications initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 67-72. At the Plaintiff's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held an administrative hearing on November 21, 2012. Tr. 38-66. Plaintiff was present and represented himself.

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 51 years old and possessed an eighth grade education. Tr. 44, 54-55, 158, 171. He had past relevant work ("PRW") experience as a livestock farmer and bar tacking machine operator. Tr. 57-60.

On March 22, 2013, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff's coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension were severe, but did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. Tr. 21-22. He determined the Plaintiff could perform a full range of light work. Tr. 22. The ALJ then found the Plaintiff capable of performing his PRW as a bar tacking machine operator. Tr. 25, 164-171.

The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review on April 29, 2014. Tr. 1-4. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. ECF No. 1. This matter is before the undersigned by consent of the parties. Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. ECF Nos. 9, 10.

II. Applicable Law:

This court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. We must affirm the ALJ's decision if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, 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, we must affirm the ALJ's decision. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

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 impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.

The Commissioner's regulations require her to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his or her age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if he reaches the final stage 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. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).

III. Discussion:

On appeal, Plaintiff raises two issues. First, he contends that the evidence of record does not support the ALJ's RFC assessment. Second, the Plaintiff avers that the record lacks substantial evidence to support the ALJ's disability determination.

The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and the ALJ's opinion, and they are ...


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