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Clements v. Colvin

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

August 8, 2016

CAROLYN COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Jackie Clements (“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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II 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. 7.[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 application for DIB benefits on February 9, 2012. (Tr. 146, 230-238). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to arthritis, heart inflammation, and pleurisy. (Tr. 263). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2009. (Tr. 146). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 170-176). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 185-186).

         An administrative hearing was held on May 23, 2013. (Tr. 52-84). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jerold Hildre testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-seven (37) years old and had an eighth grade education. (Tr. 56).

         On April 18, 2014, subsequent to the hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff’s application. (Tr. 146-164). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 149, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2009. (Tr. 149, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had severe impairments of osteoarthritis of the knees, costochondritis, depressive disorder, not otherwise specified (NOS), and anxiety disorder, NOS. (Tr. 149, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff’s 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. 150, Finding 4)

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 151-162, Finding 5). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC as follows:

I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)) in that he can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, and stand and/or walk for about 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. He is limited in pushing and/or pulling (including the operation of hand and/or foot controls) with his lower extremities. He can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, but no ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He has no other postural limitations. He should avoid hazards, such as dangerous moving machinery or unprotected heights. He has no manipulative, visual, or communicative limitations. From a mental standpoint, he maintains the ability to learn, understand, remember, and carry out simple work-related instructions and tasks, and in such a work setting and environment: can use judgment in making simple work related decisions; can respond and relate appropriately to others, such as supervisors and co-workers; can maintain attention and concentration for at least two hour intervals; and, can adapt to and deal with simple changes in work settings and environments.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 162, 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. 163, 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 laundry folder with approximately 2, 400 such jobs in Arkansas and 165, 000 such jobs in the nation, bench assembler with approximately 1, 300 such jobs in Arkansas and 500, 000 such jobs in the nation, and parking lot cashier with approximately 3, 400 such jobs in Arkansas and 139, 000 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 since January 1, 2009, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 164, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 141). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-7). On September 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 16, 2015. ECF No. 7. 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. §§ ...

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