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Lichti v. Colvin

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

April 5, 2016

ROBERT LICHTI, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Robert Lichti ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), 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 a period of disability under Title II of the Act.

Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2005), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to the Honorable Barry A. Bryant for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. The Court, having reviewed the entire transcript and relevant briefing, recommends the ALJ's determination be AFFIRMED.

1. Background:

Plaintiff's application for DIB was filed on July 19, 2013. (Tr. 8, 164-170). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to depression, PTSD, memory loss, headaches, neuropathy, and degenerative joint disease. (Tr. 209). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of July 3, 2013. (Tr. 8, 209). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 8). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 124).

Plaintiff had an administrative hearing on June 2, 2014. (Tr. 27-78). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Susan Brockett, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Sarah Moore testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-nine (49) years old and had Bachelors Degree. (Tr. 30).

On February 12, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 8-20). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 10, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since the alleged onset date of July 3, 2013. (Tr. 10, Finding 2).

The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of disorders of muscle and connective tissue, affective disorder, migraines, obesity, peripheral neuropathy, anxiety disorder, and substance addiction disorder. (Tr. 10, Finding 3). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 10, Finding 4).

In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 12-19). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. The ALJ also found Plaintiff retained the RFC for light work, except is limited to occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling; occasional overhead work bilaterally; frequent fingering and handling; can do simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a setting where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; and able respond to supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 12, Finding 5).

The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 19, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 19, Finding 10). The ALJ based his determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the requirements of a representative occupation such as a machine tender with 300 such jobs in Arkansas and 190, 000 such jobs in the nation, inspector with 830 such jobs in Arkansas and 63, 000 such jobs in the nation, and assembler with 375 such jobs in Arkansas and 72, 500 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from July 3, 2013 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 20, Finding 11).

Thereafter, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 25). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. On February 23, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-3). On April 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 16. 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), 1382(3)(c). ...


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