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Bates v. Colvin

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

June 1, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Teddy Bates (“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 a period of disability, 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. 5.[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 11, 2012 (DIB) and on September 17, 2012 (SSI). (Tr. 10). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to shoulder problems, back problems, and leg problems. (Tr. 245). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 9, 2010. (Tr. 10). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 56-131).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 30-55). Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on March 7, 2014 in Texarkana, Arkansas. Id. Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Ms. Parker[2] testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-nine (49) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB). (Tr. 32). As for his level of education, Plaintiff testified he had obtained his GED and also completed some vocational training. (Tr. 32-33).

         After this hearing, on May 23, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s applications. (Tr. 7-25). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2015. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 9, 2010, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease, degenerative two left shoulder surgeries and right shoulder rotator cuff tear, knee degenerative joint disease, diabetes mellitus, depression, anxiety, and organic mental impairment. (Tr. 12-15, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined these 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. 15-17, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff’s Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 17-23, 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:

The residual functional capacity produced by the medically determinable impairments permits the lifting of 10 pounds occasionally, and to frequently lift and/or carry less than 10 pounds, and to walk and stand for 2 hours in an 8 hour workday, and sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, as defined by the regulations at 20 CFR §404. The claimant cannot climb, use ladders, ropes, scaffolds or crawl. The claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, bend, squat, kneel, and crouch. The claimant should avoid reaching overhead and can frequently but not constantly handle and finger. The claimant can make simple work related decisions, and has the ability to understand, carryout, and remember short and simple tasks and instructions. The claimant requires nonpublic work, and requires minimal coworker or supervisory interaction.


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 23-24, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 24-25, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that, given Plaintiff’s RFC and other limitations, a hypothetical person would be able to perform the requirements of two unskilled, sedentary jobs: (1) order clerk with 185, 000 such jobs in the nation and 3, 200 such jobs in Arkansas; and (2) change account clerk with 180, 000 such jobs in the nation and 4, 300 such jobs in Arkansas. (Tr. 24). Based upon this testimony, and because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform these occupations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability (as defined in the Act) from August 9, 2010 through the date of his decision or through May 23, 2014. (Tr. 25, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff then requested the Appeals Council’s review of the ALJ’s unfavorable decision, and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on September 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 17, 2015. ECF No. 5. 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 ...

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