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Paculan v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

January 18, 2017

LINDA J. PACULAN PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. ERIN L. SETSER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Linda J. Paculan, 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 her claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). 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 protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on May 17, 2012. (ECF No. 9, pp. 94, 107). In her application, Plaintiff alleges disability due to problems with her spine, arthritis, back, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder (“ADD”). (ECF No. 9, pp. 311-12). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 15, 2010. (ECF No. 9, pp. 94, 107). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 9, pp. 94-151). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 9, p. 155). Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on July 22, 2013, in Shreveport, Louisiana before ALJ John H. Goree. (ECF No. 9. pp. 52-89). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Donna M. Price. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) William D. Elmore testified at this hearing. Id. After this hearing, on January 22, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 9, pp. 152-165). Thereafter, on February 20, 2015, the Appeals Council vacated the decision of the ALJ and remanded the case for further proceedings. (ECF No. 9, pp. 170-73).

         Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held on June 8, 2015, in Shreveport, Louisiana before ALJ W. Thomas Bundy. (ECF No. 9, pp. 36-51). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Donna Price. Id. Plaintiff and VE Anita Grant testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-eight (48) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). (ECF No. 15, p. 59). As for her level of education, Plaintiff completed the seventh grade and subsequently earned her GED. (ECF No. 9, p. 59).

         After this hearing, on July 2, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 9, pp. 15-29). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2011. (ECF No. 9, p. 20, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since July 15, 2010, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 9, p. 20, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, peripheral neuropathy, and anxiety disorder. (ECF No. 9, pp. 20-21, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined these impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Part 404 (“Listings”). (ECF No. 9, pp. 21-23, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 9, pp. 23-27, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform:

light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she would be limited to occasional stooping, crouching, kneeling and crawling. She would lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She is able to sit for six to eight hours and for one to two hours without interruption. She is able to stand and/or walk for six to eight hours and for one to two hours without interruption. Mentally, she is able to understand, remember, and carry out no more than 1-2-3 step instructions and have occasional contact with the public and coworkers.

Id.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 9, p. 27, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 9, pp. 42-44). Based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform, such as a photo copy machine operator, which has a DOT code of 207.685-014, with approximately sixty-six thousand two hundred eighty (66, 280) jobs in the national economy, as an office helper, which has a DOT code of 239.567-010, with approximately eighty-three thousand two hundred fifty (83, 250) jobs in the national economy, as a shipping and receiving weigher, which has a DOT code of 222.387-074, with approximately sixty-nine thousand nine hundred ninety (69, 990) jobs in the national economy, and as a housekeeper, which has a DOT code of 323.687-014, with approximately eight hundred eighty-seven thousand nine hundred eighty (887, 980) jobs in the national economy. (ECF No. 9, p. 28, Finding 10). Because jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy, which Plaintiff can perform, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from July 15, 2010, through July 2, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 9, p. 28, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, on August 31, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council (ECF. No. 9, p. 14). The Appeals Council denied this request on September 24, 2015. (ECF No. 9, pp. 9-13). On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on February 8, 2016. (ECF No. 6). This case is now ready for decision.

         II. Applicable Law:

         This Court's role is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findings. Vossen v. Astrue, 612 F.3d 1011, 1015 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. Teague v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 611, 614 (8th Cir. 2011). We must affirm the ALJ's decision if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2014). 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. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). In other words, 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, we must affirm the ALJ's decision. Id.

         A claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); See also 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines “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.” ...


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