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Scott v. Berryhill

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

April 7, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Crystal A. Scott (“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 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. 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 filed her disability applications on May 9, 2013. (Tr. 60). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to bulging discs in her lower back with spurs, depression, degenerative disc disease, major migraines, blood pressure problems, knee problems, memory problems, and anxiety. (Tr. 272). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 23, 2010. (Tr. 60).

         These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 81-94).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications. The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on August 28, 2014 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 76-118). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Matthew Ketcham. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-five (35) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI). (Tr. 83-84). As for her level of education, Plaintiff testified she completed high school and “about 2 ½ years of college.” (Tr. 84).

         After this hearing, on January 16, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for SSI and DIB. (Tr. 56-71). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 62, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since February 10, 2012, her amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 62, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: musculoskeletal disorders (back disorder, osteoarthritis, and related disorders); obesity; hypertension; somatoform pain disorder; dependent personality traits; and depression secondary to medical conditions. (Tr. 62-63, 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 Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 63-65, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 65-69, 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 the following:

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 as follows: The claimant can frequently lift and/or carry less than ten pounds and occasionally ten pounds, sit for a total of six hours in an eight hour workday, and stand and/or walk for a total of at least two hours in an eight hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps or stairs. She cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally balance, crouch, or crawl. The claimant is able to work where interpersonal contact is routine but superficial, the complexity of tasks is learned by experience and the supervision is little for routine tasks, but detailed for non-routine tasks. The claimant must use an assistive device for prolonged ambulation.


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff is unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 69, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 70-71, Finding 10). 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) credit card clerk (sedentary, semi-skilled) with 360, 600 such jobs in the United States and 3, 200 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) order clerk (sedentary, semi-skilled) with 77, 770 such jobs in the United States and 460 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) information clerk (sedentary, semi-skilled) with 610, 300 such jobs in the United States and 4, 200 such jobs in Arkansas. (Tr. 70). 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 February 10, 2012 through the date of his decision or through January 16, 2015. (Tr. 71, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 52). On March 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). On April 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 21, 2016. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14-15. This case is now ripe for determination.

         2. Ap ...

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