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Bray v. Colvin

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

April 22, 2016

CHARLES D. BRAY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

         Charles Bray ("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 Income 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 Susan O. Hickey 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 DIB and SSI applications on July 29, 2011. (Tr. 20, 164-178). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to chest pain, syncope, shortness of breath, and fatigue. (Tr. 227). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 25, 2010. (Tr. 20). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 20, 89-92).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on May 4, 2012. (Tr. 107). This hearing request was granted. (Tr. 115-119). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on April 18, 2013. (Tr. 38-88). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Robyn McWilliams. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Russell Bowden testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was sixty-one (61) years old and had completed high school. (Tr. 40-41).

         On August 27, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 20-32). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 23, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since June 25, 2010. (Tr. 23, Finding 2).

         The ALJ next found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: coronary artery disease and COPD. (Tr. 23, 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. 25, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 25-32, 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 medium work. Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW"). (Tr. 32, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff was capable of performing his PRW as a truck driver. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from June 25, 2010, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 32, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 15). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. On January 5, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-9). On June 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. 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) (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 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. SeeCox 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). A ...

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