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Kirkendoll v. Colvin

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

August 17, 2016

JASON W. KIRKENDOLL PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Plaintiff Jason W. Kirkendoll appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying his claims for Disability Insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). For reasons that follow, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and remanded.

         I. Background

         On October 5, 2011, Mr. Kirkendoll filed for benefits due to obesity and limitation of his left arm and shoulder. (Tr. 134-140, 151) He alleged disability beginning on September 10, 2010. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on May 9, 2013, and Mr. Kirkendoll appeared with his lawyer. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Mr. Kirkendoll, his stepmother, and a vocational expert (“VE”). (Tr. 43-76)

         The ALJ issued a decision on October 22, 2013, finding that Mr. Kirkendoll was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 28-39) On April 14, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Kirkendoll’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. (Tr. 1-3) On June 15, 2015, Mr. Kirkendoll filed this appeal. (Docket entry #2) The parties have filed their briefs, and the case is ready for decision.[1]

         Mr. Kirkendoll was twenty-three years old on his alleged disability onset date and twenty-six years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 48) He was 5'9" tall and weighed somewhere between 500-600 pounds. (Tr. 48) Mr. Kirkendoll had graduated high school. (Tr. 50) He had past relevant work as a heavy equipment operator. (Tr. 48)

         II. Decision of the Administrative Law Judge[2]

         The ALJ found that Mr. Kirkendoll had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 10, 2010, and had the following severe impairments: morbid obesity, degenerative joint disease (history of left acromiclavicular joint separation), and mild systolic ejection murmur. (Tr. 30) The ALJ found that Mr. Kirkendoll’s depressive disorder was not a severe impairment and that he did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[3] (Tr. 30-31)

         According to the ALJ, Mr. Kirkendoll retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of sedentary work. He had the ability to lift and carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; to stand or walk up to two hours in an eight-hour workday, with a sit/stand option of forty-five minute intervals of sitting followed by four-to-five minute intervals of standing in place; to sit six hours in an eight-hour workday; to push or pull ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently with the right arm, but not with the left; and to frequently handle and finger with both hands. (Tr. 31) The ALJ found no nonexertional limitations.

         Mr. Kirkendoll could not perform past relevant work. (Tr. 37) The VE testified, however, that food checker, appointment clerk, and telephone solicitor were jobs that a person with Mr. Kirkendoll’s limitations could perform. (Tr. 73-74) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Mr. Kirkendoll could perform a number of jobs in the national economy and, therefore, was not disabled. (Tr. 38-39)

         III. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing the Commissioner’s decision, this Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the decision. Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “less than a preponderance, but sufficient for reasonable minds to find it adequate to support the decision.” Id. (citing Guilliams v. Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)).

         In reviewing the record as a whole, the Court must consider both evidence that detracts from the Commissioner’s decision and evidence that supports the decision; but, the decision cannot be reversed, “simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion.” Id. (citing Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th Cir. 2006)).

         B. Mr. Kirkendoll’s ...


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