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Schluterman v. Berryhill

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

June 7, 2017

KATHERINE L. SCHLUTERMAN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Katherine L. Schluterman (“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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II 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. 5.[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 disability application on February 12, 2014. (Tr. 11). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, bulging disc in her back, arthritis in her left shoulder, bilateral arthritis in her wrists, and bilateral arthritis in her hips (left worse than right), and obesity. (Tr. 188). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of October 5, 2012. (Tr. 11). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 59-75).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 99-100). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on June 17, 2015 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 25-57). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Fred Caddell. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Deborah Steele testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-nine (49) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 30). As for her level of education, Plaintiff testified she completed the twelfth grade in high school. Id.

         After this hearing, on July 16, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 8-20). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since October 5, 2012, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: hypertension; osteoarthritis of the left hip, shoulders, and wrists; chronic lower back pain; spondylolisthesis at ¶ 5-S1; and obesity. (Tr. 13-15, 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. 13-15, Finding 3).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 15-18, 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), which consists of lifting and carrying up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She is limited to work which involves simple tasks and simple instructions. She should have only incidental contact with the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 18-19, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19-20, 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 occupations such as the following: (1) air purifier servicer (light) with 1, 150 such jobs in the region and 139, 760 such jobs in the nation; (2) housekeeper or cleaner (light) with 3, 270 such jobs in the region and 391, 650 such jobs in the nation; and (3) apparel stock checker (light) with 150 such jobs in the region and 14, 500 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 19-20, Finding 10). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from October 5, 2012 (alleged onset date) through July 16, 2015 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 20, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 5). On July 1, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). On August 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with the Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 5, 2016. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 16. This case is now ripe for determination.

         2. Ap ...


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