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Chronister v. Colvin

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

February 2, 2017

DENA LARIE CHRONISTER PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Dena Larie Chronister (“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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability 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. 5.[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 August 17, 2009. (Tr. 8, 124-127). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. (Tr. 144). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 14, 2008. (Tr. 8). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 60-61).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 27-59). Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on August 4, 2010 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. After that hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB application. (Tr. 5-15). Thereafter, Plaintiff appealed that denial to this the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. See Chronister v. SSA, 2:12-cv-02117 (W.D. Nov. 26, 2012). As a part of this appeal, the SSA requested Plaintiff's case be reversed and remanded for additional record development. Id. This request was granted, and Plaintiff's case was reversed and remanded. Id. ECF Nos. 8-9.

         Subsequently, the ALJ held two additional administrative hearings, one on August 16, 2012 and one on September 23, 2014.[2] (Tr. 368-448). At Plaintiff's third hearing on September 23, 2014, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Iva Gibbons. (Tr. 368-399). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) John Massey testified at this hearing. Id.

         On May 8, 2015, after her third administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision again denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 348-360). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2015. (Tr. 353, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since her alleged onset date of July 14, 2008. (Tr. 353, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, mild osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease of the thoracolumbar spine with chronic back pain, and a history of iron deficiency anemia. (Tr. 353-355, Finding 3). 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. 355, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 355-360, 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 capacity to perform a wide range of light work:

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 404.1567(b) except the claimant is able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, can never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds, and can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. In addition, she must avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, wetness and hazards and cannot drive as a part of work.

Id.

         The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 360, Finding 6). Considering her RFC, age, education, and work history, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a panty hose seam machine operator and inspector (light, semiskilled); and mail sorter (light, skilled). Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from July 14, 2008 (alleged onset date) through May 8, 2015 (date of the ALJ's decision). Id.

         Thereafter, on August 31, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 5, 8, 10. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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