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Turner v. Berryhill

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

February 21, 2017

ROSE MARIE TURNER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Rose Marie Turner (“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 applications for a period of disability, 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 protectively filed her disability application for DIB on January 16, 2013 and for SSI on January 22, 2013. (Tr. 12, 263-270). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to early disc degeneration, a disc bulge, and spondylosis at ¶ 2-3, and type 2 endplate disease at ¶ 5-S1. (Tr. 299). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 27, 2009, which was later amended to February 1, 2011. (Tr. 30, 263, 269). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 12). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 152).

         Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 20, 2014. (Tr. 25-76). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Jim O'Hern, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff, her friend Claudia Ross, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jim B. Spragins testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-eight (48) years old, and had a ninth grade education. (Tr. 28).

         After this hearing, on November 10, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB and SSI applications. (Tr. 12-19). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2013. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since February 1, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 2).

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease diabetes mellitus, asthma, obesity, and shoulder diabetic peripheral neuropathy. (Tr. 14, Finding 3). However, 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. 14-15, Finding 4).

         In his decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 15-17, Finding 5). 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 sedentary work, except she could never climb ropes or ladders; could occasionally climb stairs, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, crouch, and reach overhead bilaterally; and must avoid hazards and exposure to temperature extremes, wetness, humidity, fumes, gases, and particulate matter; and avoid hazards. Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 17, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) small products assembler with 181, 000 such jobs in the nation and 3, 600 such jobs in Arkansas, (2) escort vehicle driver with 20, 000 such jobs in the nation and 20 such jobs in Arkansas, and (3) document preparer with 15, 000 such jobs in the nation and 200 such jobs in Arkansas Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, since May 3, 2012. (Tr. 19, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7-8). On February 2, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on March 28, 2016. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 1, 2016. ECF No. 6. Both parties have field appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 13. 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 draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions ...


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