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Baldwin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

June 30, 2017

SUSAN L. BALDWIN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Susan L. Baldwin (“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 disability application on February 11, 2013. (Tr. 12). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a number of impairments: chronic depression, syncopal episodes, severe fatigue, volatile hypertension, memory loss, severe headaches, anxiety, visual disturbances, arrhythmias, intermittent shortness of breath, suicidal ideation and attempts, herniated disc, fibromyalgia, and suppressed immune system. (Tr. 311). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 18, 2005. (Tr. 12). Her application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 162-186).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. This request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on November 13, 2014 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 32-75). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Mr. Poland[1]. Id. Plaintiff, Vocational Expert (“VE”) David Ellmore, and a witness for Plaintiff testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty-three (53) years old, which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008). (Tr. 38). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had vocational training as a licensed practical nurse (“LPN”). (Tr. 38-39).

         On March 4, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 9-26). The ALJ determined Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff did not engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) during the period from her alleged onset date of August 18, 2005 through her date last insured of December 31, 2011. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ determined through her date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: tachycardia/arrhythmia; Fibromyalgia; history of left shoulder impingement; history of syncopal episodes; depression; and anxiety. (Tr. 14, 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. 14-17, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 17-24, 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, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is able to perform work with occasional stooping, crouching, crawling, kneeling, bending, balancing, and climbing of ramps/stairs, but no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no work around hazards, such as unprotected heights and moving machinery. Additionally, she is able to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete, with no more than occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors, and no contact with the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 24, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 24-25, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon this testimony and considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) production assembler (light, unskilled) with 6, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 180, 000 such jobs in the nation; and (2) cleaner/housekeeper (light, unskilled) with 4, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and 400, 000 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 25). 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, at any time from August 18, 2005 (alleged onset date) through December 31, 2011 (date last insured). (Tr. 25, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On May 13, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On July 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in her case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 7, 11, 13. 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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