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Rowe v. Berryhill

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

May 15, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1]DEFENDANT



         Danny K. Rowe (“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 his claim for a period of disability and 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. 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 his disability applications for DIB and SSI on November 14, 2012. (ECF No. 9, p. 15). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to epileptic seizures and scar tissue on his back. (ECF No. 9, p. 228). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of May 3, 2011. (ECF No. 9, pp. 15, 224). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 9, pp. 63-106).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 9, pp. 125-26). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 15, 2014, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (ECF No. 9, pp. 31-62). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Frederick Spencer. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Sarah Moore testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-one (51) years old, which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(d), 416.963(d). (ECF No. 9, p. 39). As for his level of education, Plaintiff earned a high school diploma. Id.

         After this hearing, on March 20, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 9, pp. 12-25). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2014. (ECF No. 9, p. 17, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since May 3, 2011, his alleged onset date. (ECF No. 9, p. 17, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a history of burns (NOS); epilepsy; hepatitis c, and; squamous cell carcinoma status post-surgery. (ECF No. 9, pp. 17-18, 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. 9, pp. 18-19, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 9, pp. 19-24, 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:

medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except [Plaintiff] can sit for 6 hours out of an eight-hour workday and can stand and/or walk for 6 hours out of an eight-hour workday; and [Plaintiff] must avoid even moderate exposure to hazardous machinery and unprotected heights.


         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was able to perform his Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) as a retail manager as actually and generally performed. (ECF No. 9, pp. 24-25, Finding 6). Because Plaintiff could perform his PRW, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from May 3, 2011, through March 20, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 9, p. 25, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, on April 3, 2015, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 9, p. 10). The Appeals Council denied this request on April 25, 2016. (ECF No. 9, pp. 5-8). On June 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 22, 2016. (ECF No. 6). 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 ...

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