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Duckett v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

August 3, 2016

BARTHOLOMEW DUCKETT PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION INSTRUCTIONS

          JOE J. VOLPE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The District Judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         Plaintiff, Bartholomew Duckett, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny his claim for supplemental security income. Both parties have submitted briefs and the case is ready for a decision.

         A court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996).

         In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993). After careful review of the pleadings and evidence in this case, I find the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and recommend the Complaint be DISMISSED.

         Plaintiff is fifty-two years old. (Tr. 48) He testified he earned a general equivalence degree. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to “diabetes, mental health, gout, thyroid, acid reflux, bowel problem, thyroid problem, sleep apnea, [and] high blood pressure.” (Tr. 148) The ALJ[1] found Mr. Duckett had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 16, 2012 - the application date. (Tr. 12) He has “severe” impairments in the form of diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, a history of lumbar compression fracture, antisocial personality disorder, and a history of polysubstance abuse. (Id.) The ALJ further found Mr. Duckett did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[2] (Tr. 12-15)

         The ALJ determined Mr. Duckett had the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of light work. (Tr. 15) He determined Mr. Duckett could no longer perform his past work as a truck driver, so he utilized the services of a vocational expert to determine whether other work existed in significant numbers that Plaintiff could perform despite his impairments. (Tr. 17-18, 65-68) Through asking hypothetical questions of the vocational expert, the ALJ assessed that Mr. Duckett could perform the jobs of production assembler and cashier. (Tr. 65-68, 18) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Mr. Duckett was not disabled. (Id.)

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making his decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3) Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2.)

         In support of his Complaint, Plaintiff raises several arguments. He believes the ALJ erred in determining his gout was not a “severe” impairment, improperly evaluated the evidence from his treating and evaluating doctors, made an incorrect residual functional capacity assessment, and asked improper hypothetical questions of the vocational expert. (Doc. No. 11.)

         With regard to his first argument, Plaintiff contends the findings of his treating physician, Derek Lewis, M.D., should constitute substantial evidence. Generally, this is true. But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reiterated:

Generally, a treating physician's opinion is given more weight than other sources in a disability proceeding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). Indeed, when the treating physician's opinion is supported by proper medical testing, and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record, the ALJ must give the opinion controlling weight. Id. “However, [a]n ALJ may discount or even disregard the opinion of a treating physician where other medical assessments are supported by better or more thorough medical evidence, or where a treating physician renders inconsistent opinions that undermine the credibility of such opinions.” Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir.2010) (alteration in original) ...

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