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Hamilton v. Colvin

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

October 13, 2016

ZENA MARCIA HAMILTON PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Zena Marcia Hamilton (“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 her applications for a period of disability and 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 her disability application on January 31, 2014. (Tr. 9, 143-144). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to lumbar degenerative arthritis, left knee osteoarthritis, right knee patellofemoral syndrome, right shoulder osteoarthritis, left shoulder strain, degenerative cervical spine, hip strains, and hand osteoarthritis. (Tr. 218). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of February 1, 2012. (Tr. 218). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 9). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 85).

         Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on March 17, 2015. (Tr. 23-54). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Frederick Spencer, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jim Spragins testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-five (55) years old and graduated from high school. (Tr. 25-26).

         After this hearing, on August 12, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB application. (Tr. 9-17). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since February 1, 2012, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairment of osteoarthritis. (Tr. 11, 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. 13, Finding 4).

         In his decision, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 13-17, Finding 5). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for light work, except she is able to frequently climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, and crouch; and frequently finger and handle bilaterally. (Tr. 13).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff capable of performing her PRW as an administrative office clerk. (Tr. 17, Finding 6). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from February 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 17, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 4-5). On September 17, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on October 14, 2015. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on November 3, 2015. ECF No. 7. 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 ...


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