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Chandler v. Astrue

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

February 8, 2017

JESSICA CHANDLER PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Jessica Chandler (“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 applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability 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. 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 applications on August 1, 2013. (Tr. 87, 247-260). Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to degenerative disc disease, sciatica, high blood pressure, scoliosis, and arthritis. (Tr. 271). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of May 16, 2013. (Tr. 87). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 141-180).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 107-140). Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on March 20, 2013, and Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held on September 12, 2014. Id. Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 107-125). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jerold L. Hildre testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was twenty-seven (27) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c)(2008) (SSI). (Tr. 112). As for her education, Plaintiff also testified at this hearing that she had completed high school. (Tr. 113).

         On October 24, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 84-102). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 89, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since May 16, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 89, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, lumbar disc disease, and thoracic disc disease. (Tr. 89-96, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 96, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ also evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 96-101, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and allegedly disabling symptoms. Id. Second, the ALJ reviewed all the evidence in the record and hearing testimony and determined Plaintiff's RFC. Id. Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a wide range of sedentary work:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except the claimant can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or climb ramps/stairs.

Id.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had no Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) that she would be able to perform, but she would be able to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 101, Findings 6, 10). Plaintiff and the VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding these issues. Id. Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 101). However, the ALJ also determined that, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 101-102, Finding 10).

         Specifically, the VE testified Plaintiff would be able to perform the requirements of occupations such as the following: (1) order clerk (sedentary, unskilled) with 139, 000 such jobs in the nation and 500 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) optical good assembler (sedentary, unskilled) with 106, 000 such jobs in the nation and 600 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) lens inserter (sedentary, unskilled) with 100, 000 such jobs in the nation and 5, 000 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not bee under a disability, as defined in the Act, from May 16, 2013 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through October 24, 2014. (Tr. 102, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. On December 18, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request. On January 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on January 19, 2016. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 17. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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