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Bell v. Berryhill

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

April 27, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Robert Bell (“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 his 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 his disability applications on December 18, 2013. (Tr. 38). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to his inability to read and write or spell, his anxiety, shoulder and back problems, and stomach problems. (Tr. 282). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 15, 2013. (Tr. 38). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 92-167).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 183-184). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on January 27, 2015 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 61-91). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Iva Nell Gibbons. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was thirty-nine (39) 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. 66). As for his level of education, Plaintiff testified he completed the 9th or 10th grade but never obtained his GED. (Tr. 66-67).

         After this hearing, on April 8, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for SSI and DIB. (Tr. 35-49). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2017. (Tr. 40, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 15, 2013, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 40, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic lower back pain syndrome; internal derangement of his right shoulder, secondary to traumatic injury, status/post-arthroscopy; reflex sympathetic dystrophy/right shoulder (RSD); anxiety; and depression. (Tr. 40, 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. 41-42, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 42-47, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he is functionally illiterate, and he is limited to jobs involving simple tasks and simple instructions, with only incidental contact with the public. He is further limited to occasional overhead reaching and frequent but not repetitive manipulation with his right dominant hand.


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 48-49, Finding 10). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. 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) sandwich board carrier (light, unskilled) with 15, 162 such jobs in the nation and 110 such jobs in Arkansas; and (2) scaling machine operator (light, unskilled) with 25, 793 such jobs in the nation and 326 such jobs in Arkansas. (Tr. 48). 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 April 15, 2013 through the date of his decision or through April 8, 2015. (Tr. 49, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 16). On May 5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-4). On May 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on May 31, 2016. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. This case is now ripe for determination.

         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 ...

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