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Johnson v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

August 16, 2016

CHARLES LEWIS JOHNSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Charles Johnson (“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. 8.[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 July 27, 2010. (Tr. 11, 113-126). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to low back problems. (Tr. 152). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 30, 2008. (Tr. 214). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 11, 42-61). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 62).

         Plaintiff’s initial administrative hearing was held on September 12, 2011. (Tr. 23-41). After this hearing, on October 24, 2011, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s DIB and SSI applications. (Tr. 11-18). Following this, on November 26, 2013, The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana Division, remanded the case back to the agency for further administrative proceedings. (Tr. 399-412).

         Plaintiff’s second administrative hearing was held on May 8, 2014. (Tr. 345-379). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Matt Golden, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Diane Smith testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-two (42) years old and graduated from high school. (Tr. 350).

         After this hearing, on July 28, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s DIB and SSI applications. (Tr. 330-339). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 332, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 30, 2008, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 332, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative changes to the lumbar spine with radiculopathy and obesity. (Tr. 333, Finding 3). However, 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. 333, Finding 4).

         In his decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 333-337, 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 for sedentary work, except he requires the ability to stand for ten minutes in his immediate work area without interfering with the work process after sitting for 45 minutes; cannot engage in more than occasional stooping, bending, crouching, crawling, kneeling, or balancing; could not perform work that required climbing of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and is limited to work that is simple, routine, repetitive, and with supervision that is simple direct and concrete. (Tr. 333-334).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff unable to perform any PRW. (Tr. 337, Finding 6). The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 338, Finding 10). The ALJ based this 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 table worker with 2, 500 such jobs in the region and 300, 000 such jobs in the nation and bonder with 2, 500 such jobs in the region and 20, 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 from April 30, 2008, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 338, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council’s review of the ALJ’s unfavorable decision. (Tr. 326). On December 2, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on February 1, 2016. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on February 24, 2016. ECF No. 8. 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 ...


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