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Collins v. Berryhill

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

April 21, 2017

BRIDGET G. COLLINS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration [1] DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Bridget Collins (“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 and supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits under Title 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. 6).[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 disability application for SSI on April 19, 2013. (ECF No. 10, p. 16). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to back injury, knee misalignment, arthritis, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, racing heart, sleep apnea, falling asleep while driving, digestive problems, acid reflux, swollen ankles and legs, and degenerative disc disease. (ECF No. 10, p. 199). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 1, 2012. (ECF No. 10, pp. 16, 195). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 10, pp. 65-97).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 10, pp.113-15). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 27, 2014, in Harrison, Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, pp. 32-64). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by Evelyn Brooks. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Sarah Moore testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-eight (38) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (ECF No. 10, p. 36). As for her level of education, Plaintiff has Associate's degrees in the fields of accounting, business management, and business administration. (ECF No. 10, pp. 36-37).

         After this hearing, on January 6, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (ECF No. 10, pp. 13-27). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 19, 2013, her application date. (ECF No. 10, p. 18, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:

Musculoskeletal Disorders (Back Disorder, lumbar degenerative disc disease) (7240) and (Osteoarthritis and Allied Disorders, bilateral knees, left patella chondromalacia) (7150/7160); Special/Other Disorders (Obesity) (2780); Cardiovascular Disorders (Cardiac Dysrhythmias, palpitations) (4270) and (Hypertension) (4010); Respiratory Disorders (Asthma with recurrent bronchitis) (4910); and Mental Disorders (Mood/Affective Disorders, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder) (2960/3000).

(ECF No. 10, pp. 18-19, 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 Part 404 (“Listings”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 19-21, Finding 3).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 21-25, 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:

sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a) except as follows: [Plaintiff] cannot climb, kneel, crouch, or crawl. [Plaintiff] can occasionally balance and stoop. [Plaintiff] must avoid all concentrated exposure to temperature extremes and humidity. [Plaintiff] must avoid even moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, and poor ventilation. [Plaintiff] must avoid even moderate exposure to workplace hazards and cannot drive as part of work. [Plaintiff] is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is routine but superficial, where the complexity of tasks is learned by experience, with several variables and use of judgment within limits, and where the supervision required is little for routine tasks but detailed for non-routine tasks.

Id. at 25.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had no Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 10, p, 26, Finding 5). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 10, pp. 58-63). 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 clerk, which has a DOT code of 249.587-018, with approximately sixty thousand eight hundred (60, 800) jobs in the national economy, and approximately four hundred fifty-seven (457) jobs in the regional economy, as an assembler, which has a DOT code of 726.684-110, with approximately nineteen thousand seven hundred (19, 700) jobs in the national economy, and approximately two hundred seventeen (217) jobs in the regional economy, and as a machine tender, which has a DOT code of 713.684-038, with approximately fifteen thousand one hundred (15, 100) jobs in the national economy, and approximately one hundred seventy-five (175) jobs in the regional economy. (ECF No. 10, pp. 26-27, Finding 9). 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 April 19, 2013, through January 6, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 10, p. 27, Finding 10).

         Thereafter, on March 8, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 10, p. 9). The Appeals Council denied this request on April 20, 2016. (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-8). On June 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the ...


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