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Bruno v. Colvin

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

January 31, 2017

CAROLYN COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Jessica Inez Bruno (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI 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. 6.[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's application for DIB was filed on July 21, 2010 and SSI was filed on July 24, 2010. (Tr. 46-49, 103-110). Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to ADHD, clinical depression, and inter-explosive disorder. (Tr. 140). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 1, 2009. Id. These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 9). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 65).

         After a hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 26, 2011. (Tr. 9-18). The Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff successfully appealed this decision and on January 16, 2014, this Court reversed and remanded the case to the Commissioner. (Tr. 353-361).

         Plaintiff had subsequent administrative hearings December 1, 2014 and on July 14, 2015. (Tr. 272-305, 252-271). During the July 2015 hearing, it was noted Plaintiff had failed to appear for three consultative exams. (Tr. 254). Also at this hearing, Plaintiff amended her claim and requested a closed period of disability from January 1, 2009 through March 30, 2013, because she went back to work. (Tr. 255-256, 266-267, 276, 290, 293).

         Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, David Harp, at the hearings. (Tr. 252-271, 272-305). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Debra Steele testified at the hearings. Id. At the time of the hearings, Plaintiff was twenty-seven (27) years old and had a tenth grade education. (Tr. 278-279).

         On November 4, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 235-246). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2009. (Tr. 237, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) from January 1, 2009, through March 30, 2013. (Tr. 237, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of dysthymia, a learning disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder. (Tr. 237, 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. 238, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 239-244). 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 to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels except only where interpersonal contact with coworkers and supervisors was incidental to the work performed; no contact with the public; complexity of task was learned and performed by rote with few variables and use of little judgment; and the supervision was simple, direct, and concrete. (Tr. 239-240, Finding 5).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 244, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff had no PRW during the alleged closed period of disability. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 245, Finding 10). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the requirements of a representative occupation such as production helper with 900 such jobs statewide and 38, 100 such jobs in the nation, industrial cleaner with 9, 000 such jobs statewide and 1, 096, 000 such jobs in the nation, gluer with 3, 900 such jobs statewide and 220, 100 such jobs in the nation, photo machine copy operator with 190 such jobs statewide and 27, 200 such jobs in the nation, press clipping cutter and paster with 700 such jobs statewide and 99, 900 such jobs in the nation, and nut sorter with 160 such jobs statewide and 13, 600 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from January 1, 2009 to March 30, 2013. (Tr. 246, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff exhausted all administrative remedies, and on December 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 29, 2015. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 14. 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 ...

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