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Clemons v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

June 9, 2017

WENDIE CLEMONS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Wendie Clemons (“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 a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 7. 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 DIB application on September 6, 2013. (Tr. 8). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to high blood pressure, diabetes, back surgery, neuropathy, and severe migraines. (Tr. 145). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 6, 2013. (Tr. 8). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 47-70).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application. (Tr. 79-80). This request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on December 17, 2014 in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 30-46). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Mary Thomason. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth Clem testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-nine (39) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). (Tr. 33). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had completed “some college.” Id.

         On March 10, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 5-23). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 6, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 10, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “diabetes mellitus, migraine headaches, epilepsy and recurrent seizures (not supported by objective testing, diagnosis only), hypertension, obesity, and degenerative disc disease of the spine (Exhibits 1F-10F). The above impairments cause limitations or restrictions having more than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to do basic work-related activities; and therefore, are found to be severe.” (Tr. 10-13, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff's 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 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-22, 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 capacity 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) except reduced further with the additional limitations: The claimant can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, crouch, crawl, and kneel; and, she must also work in an environment free from temperature extremes, very noisy work places, and exposure to respiratory irritant such as dust, fumes, and gases; and, she should have no exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights, moving machinery, and open flames.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 15-22, Finding 5). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Based upon this testimony and considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a dispatcher (semiskilled, sedentary). (Tr. 23, Finding 6). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from September 6, 2013 (application date) through March 10, 2015 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 23, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 28). On April 19, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On June 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 7, 11-12. 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) (2010); 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 support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari,258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to ...


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