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Rollins v. Berryhill

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

February 21, 2017

TERESA ROLLINS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Teresa Rollins (“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 her 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 her applications for DIB and SSI on March 12, 2010. (ECF No. 15, p. 316). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to diabetes, seizures, a heart condition, high blood pressure, and acid reflux. (ECF No. 15, p. 273). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 26, 2009. (ECF No. 15, p. 315). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 15, pp. 123-129).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 15, p. 149). Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on May 13, 2011, in Arkansas before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Walter Orr. (ECF No. 15, pp. 45-62). Plaintiff, who appeared without the assistance of an attorney or other counsel, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Julia Crume testified at this hearing. Id. After this hearing, on July 6, 2011, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 15, pp. 102-14). The Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ on October 28, 2011, for further consideration of Plaintiff's RFC and evaluation of the opinions of consultative examiners Dr. Cathy Word and Julia Wood. (ECF No. 15, pp. 120-22). Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held on January 18, 2012, in Arkansas before ALJ Walter Orr. (ECF No. 15, pp. 63-97). Plaintiff, who appeared without the assistance of an attorney or other counsel, VE Russell Bowden, and psychological expert Betty Feir testified at this hearing. Id. After this hearing, on April 11, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB And SSI. (ECF No. 15, pp. 18-38). Plaintiff thereafter requested review by the Appeals Council, who denied this request on August 6, 2012. (ECF No. 15, pp. 10-13).

         Plaintiff subsequently filed an appeal with this Court. Rollins v. Colvin, No. 4:12-cv-04099, 2013 WL 3897771 (W.D. Ark. 2013). The April 11, 2012, decision of the ALJ was reversed and remanded for failure to properly analyze Plaintiff's subjective complaints in accordance with the requirements of Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320 (8th Cir. 1984). Id. Plaintiff's third administrative hearing was held on October 9, 2014, in Dallas North, Texas before ALJ Michael Finnie. (ECF No. 15, pp. 829-61). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Greg Jones. Id. Plaintiff and VE Susan Dobson testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c); 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (ECF No. 15, p. 833). As for her level of education, Plaintiff completed the twelfth grade. Id.

         After this hearing, on April 24, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 15, pp. 770-86). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2014. (ECF No. 15, p. 775, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since December 26, 2009, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 15, pp. 775-76, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: seizure disorder, headache, diabetes with neuropathy, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric esophageal reflux disease, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, degenerative joint disease of the left knee, affective disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). (ECF No. 15, p. 776, 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. 776-77, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 15, pp. 777-84, 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 RFC to perform:

a full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that she can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, lift and/or carry 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit for 6 hours in an 8hour workday. The claimant must avoid exposure to hazardous moving machinery, unprotected heights and commercial driving. The claimant has the ability to understand, carry out and remember simple, routine tasks, with no more than occasional contact with the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 15, p. 784, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 15, pp. 854-60). 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 a silver wrapper, which has a DOT code of 318.687-018, with approximately one hundred seven thousand (107, 000) jobs in the national economy, and approximately three hundred (300) jobs in the state of Arkansas, as a cleaner, which has a DOT code of 323.687-014, with approximately one hundred thirty-four thousand (134, 000) jobs in the national economy, and approximately two thousand two hundred (2, 200) jobs in the state of Arkansas, and as a locker room attendant, which has a DOT code of 358.677-014, with approximately eighteen thousand(18, 000) jobs in the national economy, and approximately two hundred (200) jobs in the state of Arkansas. (ECF No. 15, pp. 784-85, 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 December 26, 2009, through April 24, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 15, p. 785), Finding 11).

         Thereafter, on May 4, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 15, p. 799). The Appeals Council denied this request on August 19, 2015. (ECF No. 15, pp. 765- 69). On September 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 28, 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 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 to support 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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