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Baker v. Colvin

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

October 3, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Plaintiff, Thomas Ray Baker, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). In this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Procedural Background:

         Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and SSI on November 7, 2012, alleging disability since April 26, 2012, due to lower back pain, left side hernia, chronic pain, colitis/IBS, chronic fatigue, asthma, and high blood pressure. (Doc. 12, pp. 112-113, 215-227, 257, 263). An administrative hearing was held on December 2, 2013, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Doc. 12, pp. 44-111).

         By written decision dated May 2, 2014, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe - degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, hypertension, asthma with recurrent bronchitis, and a history of bilateral inguinal hernia repairs. (Doc. 12, p. 34). However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Doc. 12, p. 36). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, but he must never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. Additionally, he must avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation and hazards, including driving as a part of work.

(Doc. 12, p. 36). With the help of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a cashier/checker, as generally performed, and a retails salesperson, as generally performed. (Doc. 12, p. 39).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied the request on July 22, 2015, (Doc. 12, pp. 5-8). Subsequently Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). Both parties have filed briefs and this case is before the undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs. 10, 11).

         11. Evidence Presented:

         Plaintiff was born in 1981. In 2010, prior to the relevant time period (April 26, 2012 through May 2, 2014), Plaintiff had a right hernia repair performed by Dr. Jeffrey Bell. (Doc. 12, pp. 311, 348). Also in 2010, Plaintiff saw Kirk Johnson, DC, a chiropractor, who reported that Plaintiff was under his care for recurring intervertebral disc syndrome, which caused “acute, debilitating low back pain.” (Doc. 12, p. 450). On December 2, 2011, Plaintiff underwent a Psychological Screening Evaluation - Rehabilitation Initial Diagnosis and Assessment for Clients, by Letitia C. Hitz, Ph.D. (Doc. 12, p. 559). Dr. Hitz diagnosed Plaintiff with mathematics disorder and disorder of written expression. (Doc. 12, p. 561). In 2011 and 2012, Dr. Charles R. Belt diagnosed Plaintiff with various maladies, including: insomnia; back pain; seborrheic dermatitis; sebaceous cyst; folliculitis; tonsillitis; headache; gastroenteritis; and hypertension. (Doc. 12, pp. 350-355).

         On April 26, 2012, while working at the University of Arkansas, Plaintiff was moving equipment and felt a pop in his right groin. (Doc. 12, p. 346). Plaintiff saw Dr. David Beck on April 27, 2012, and was diagnosed with muscle strain-groin and folliculitis. (Doc. 12, p. 348). Plaintiff again saw Dr. Beck on April 30, 2012, for an initial assessment for Worker's Compensation, and Dr. Beck reported that he was concerned about possible disruption of Plaintiff's previous hernia repair, and concluded that Plaintiff had, at the very least, muscle strain of the groin. (Doc. 12, p. 347). He diagnosed Plaintiff with muscle strain of the groin, folliculitis, and right lower quadrant abdominal pain, and Dr. Beck instructed Plaintiff to refrain from lifting anything weighing more than 10 pounds. (Doc. 12, p. 347). On May 7, 2012, Dr. Beck reported that Plaintiff needed an extension to refrain off work, because he had an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Bell the next day to discuss possible surgery. (Doc. 12, p. 345).

         On May 8, 2012, Plaintiff saw Dr. Bell, and denied arthralgias, back pain, bone pain, muscle pain, myalgias, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle cramps or muscle weakness. (Doc. 12, p. 324). That same day, Dr. Bell wrote a letter to Dr. Belt, stating that on physical exam, there was some tenderness to palpation, but no clear inguinal hernia, and that he recommended a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis. (Doc. 12, p. 359). A CT of Plaintiff's abdomen and pelvis was performed on May 11, 2012, with the following impression:

1. No acute inflammatory process in the abdomen ...

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