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Lee v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2017

LATOYA MICHELLE LEE PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Latoya Michelle Lee (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title 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. 7.[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 SSI application on March 30, 2012. (Tr. 12). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to bipolar disorder, lower back pain, and anemia. (Tr. 189). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 1, 2012. (Tr. 12). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 81-94).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 127 128). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on February 4, 2014 in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 28-80). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by David Graham. Id. Plaintiff, Medical Expert (“ME”) Dr. Jan Maxwell, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Donald Anderson testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-nine (39) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI). (Tr. 42). As for her level of education, Plaintiff testified she had completed the eleventh grade in high school. Id.

         After this hearing, on October 31, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 8-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since March 30, 2012, her application date. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mood disorder (beginning February 5, 2013), arthritis in her right knee, lumbar disc disease, and anemia. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). 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 Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 14-16, Finding 3).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 16-20, Finding 4). 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 the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently, due to arthritis and anemia. She is able to stand and walk for 2 hours during 8-hour workday. The claimant is able to push and pull occasionally. She is able to operate foot controls occasionally. She is able to climb stairs occasionally, but never scaffolds, ladders, or ropes. She is able to crouch, balance, kneel, crawl, stoop and squat occasionally. She cannot be exposed to unprotected heights, moving machinery, extreme temperature changes, uneven terrain, vibration, cutting instruments or commercial driving. She will required [require] a stand and sit option for 3 minutes every hour to stretch and stand, but not to leave the work area or workstation.
The claimant is able to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, due to mood disorder. She is able to respond appropriately to supervisors. She is able to have casual conversations with co-workers, but is unable to work in a team. She can work with objects rather than with people. She cannot be exposed to the general public. She is able to use judgment appropriately. She is able to maintain the concentration persistence and pace during an eight-hour workday. She can tolerate routine changes in a work setting. 20 CFR 416.967(a)

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff had no PRW. (Tr. 20, Finding 5). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following: (1) assembler (sedentary, unskilled) with 600 such jobs in Arkansas and 55, 000 such jobs in the nation; (2) folder (sedentary, unskilled) with 2, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 52, 000 such jobs in the nation; and (3) sorter (sedentary, unskilled) with 700 such jobs in Arkansas and 56, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 21). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this work, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from March 30, 2012 (application date) through October 31, 2014 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 21, Finding 10).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. On February 17, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). On April 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 18, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. This case is now ripe for determination.

         2.Applicable ...


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