United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division
JOHN K. SMEJA PLAINTIFF
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Smeja (“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”) and a period of
disability under Title II of the Act.
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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
protectively filed his disability application on September
11, 2013. (Tr. 11). In his application, Plaintiff alleges
being disabled due to left ankle fracture, left hip fracture,
knee pain, sleep apnea, hypertension, and dyslexia. (Tr.
169). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 27, 2011. (Tr.
11). This application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 83-88).
Plaintiff's application was denied, Plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing on his application, and this
hearing request was granted. (Tr. 89-90). Thereafter, on
December 9, 2014, the ALJ held an administrative hearing on
Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 23-55). At this hearing,
Plaintiff was present and was represented by Frederick
Spencer. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Juanita Grant testified at this hearing.
Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was
fifty-three (53) years old and had a high school diploma (Tr.
26, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 11-18). In this
decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status
of the Act through March 31, 2017. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The
ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial
Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since July 27, 2011.
(Tr. 13, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, left
ankle fracture, and left hip fracture. (Tr. 13, Finding 3).
The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's impairments did not
meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the
Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of
Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 13, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 14-16). 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 to perform light work, except he
could occasionally climb ramps and stairs; could never climb
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; could occasionally operate
foot controls with the left foot; and was limited to
performing jobs that did not require complex written
communication. (Tr. 14, Finding 5).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 16, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff unable to perform his PRW. Id. The ALJ
then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy. (Tr. 16, Finding 10). The VE testified at
the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based
upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) small
products assembler with 206, 600 such jobs in the nation and
2, 340 such jobs in the state, (2) furniture rental clerk
with 430, 700 such jobs in the nation and 3, 390 such jobs in
the state, and (3) information clerk with 973, 000 such jobs
in the nation and 7, 610 such jobs in the state Id.
Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other
work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from July 27, 2011 through
the date of the decision. (Tr. 17, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The
Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 1-6). On November 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present
appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction
of this Court on November 3, 2015. ECF No. 5. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 11. This case is now
ready for decision.
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) (2010); 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).
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. §§