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Hile v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

January 17, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Ethan M. Hile (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed his disability application on June 29, 2010. (Tr. 12, 121-124). In this application, Plaintiff alleged being disabled due to aortic stenosis, high blood pressure, and a heart murmur. (Tr. 151). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 1994. (Tr. 494). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 64-65).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 39-63). Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on October 26, 2011 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. After this administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable disability determination denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 9-22). Plaintiff appealed that denial to this Court, and Plaintiff's case was reversed and remanded to afford the ALJ the opportunity to fully consider the Polaski factors. See Hile v. SSA, 2:13-cv-02009 (W.D. Ark. May 14, 2014).

         Thereafter, the ALJ held a second administrative hearing on March 31, 2015 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 514-543). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Lauren McKinnon. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Monty Lumpkin testified at this hearing. Id.

         On August 28, 2015, the ALJ again entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's SSI application. (Tr. 491-507). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity since June 29, 2010, his application date. (Tr. 496, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mild subaortic stenosis, status postoperative; left eye strabismus with amblyopia; major depressive disorder, moderate without psychosis; post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic; and personality disorder with cluster C traits. (Tr. 496-497, Finding 2). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those 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. 497-499, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 499-505, Finding 4). First, the ALJ 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 the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he cannot tolerate concentrated exposure to extreme heat, and he can perform no more than occasional reading. He is further limited and can perform work that is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions, with few, if any, workplace changes. He can have no more than incidental contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public.


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 505, Finding 5). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was twenty (20) years old at the time his application was filed, which is classified as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 505, Finding 6). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had a limited education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 505, Finding 7).

         The ALJ then determined whether there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 506, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that a hypothetical person with Plaintiff's limitations retained the capacity to perform representative occupations such as the following: (1) power screwdriver operator with 393 such jobs in the regional economy and 55, 720 such jobs in the national economy; and (2) can filling and closing machine tender with 261 such jobs in the regional economy and 24, 562 such jobs in the national economy. Id. Based upon this testimony, and because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from June 29, 2010 (application date) through August 28, 2015 (ALJ's decision date). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 489). On December 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 13. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...

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