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Hawkins v. Berryhill

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

February 3, 2017

LEWIS W. HAWKINS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1]DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Lewis W. Hawkins (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“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).[2] 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 his disability applications for DIB and SSI on November 29, 2010. (ECF No. 15, p. 19). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to major depression, other mental issues, and a sleep disorder. (ECF No. 15, p. 204). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2008. (ECF No. 15, pp. 19, 200). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 15, pp. 97-112).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 15, pp.113-20). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 19, 2011, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (ECF No. 15, pp. 45-75). At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). (ECF No. 15, p. 200). As for his level of education, Plaintiff completed the ninth grade. (ECF No. 15, p. 205).

         After this hearing, on November 4, 2011, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI (ECF No. 15, pp. 16-30). Thereafter, on November 17, 2011, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 15, p. 13). The Appeals Council denied this request on April 19, 2013. (ECF No. 15, pp. 6-9). On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed an appeal with this Court and a Judgment was entered on August 29, 2014, reversing and remanding the Commissioner's decision, and for further development regarding Plaintiff's Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) scores. Hawkins v. Colvin, No. 2:13-cv-02149, 2014 WL 4264762 (W.D. Ark. 2014).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff's new administrative hearing was held on March 11, 2015, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (ECF No. 15, pp. 516-40). Plaintiff appeared via teleconference from the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Malvern, Arkansas and was represented by Fred Caddell. (ECF No. 15, pp. 495, 516-18, 521). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Larry Cyford testified at this hearing. (ECF No. 15, pp. 516-40).

         After this hearing, on October 21, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 15, pp. 492-509). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2012. (ECF No. 15, p. 497, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2008, his alleged onset date. (ECF No. 15, p. 497, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: major depression, polysubstance abuse vs. dependence in questionable remission, and antisocial personality traits. (ECF No. 15, p. 498, 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. 15, pp. 498-500, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 15, pp. 500-07, Finding 5). 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: “a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the [sic] is limited to work involving simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, involving only simple, work-related decisions, with few, if any, workplace changes, and no more than incidental contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public” Id. at 500.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff could not return to his Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 15, p, 507, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 15, pp. 536-38). 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 an ordinance checker, which has a DOT code of 737.687-026, with approximately twelve thousand one hundred fifty (12, 150) jobs in the national economy, and approximately one hundred seventy-four (174) jobs in the state of Arkansas, as an ampoule sealer, which has a DOT code of 559.687-014, with approximately twenty-four thousand thirty-three (24, 033) jobs in the national economy, and approximately one hundred seventy (170) jobs in the state of Arkansas, and as a circuit board inspector, which has a DOT code of 726.684-110, with approximately seven thousand four hundred seventy-nine (7, 479) jobs in the national economy, and approximately one hundred seven (107) jobs in the state of Arkansas. (ECF No. 15, p. 508-09, 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 January 1, 2008, through October 21, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 15, p. 509, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, on December 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 31, 2015. (ECF No. 5). 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 ...


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