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Wood v. Berryhill

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

July 12, 2017

EDDY L. WOOD PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Eddy L. Wood (“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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), 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. 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 his disability applications on January 3, 2012 (DIB) and on January 5, 2012 (SSI). (Tr. 9). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to insulin-dependent diabetes, arthritis in both knees, neuropathy in hands and feet, and congestive heart failure. (Tr. 535). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 30, 2011. (Tr. 9). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 65-69).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 80-81). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on February 14, 2013 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 30-64). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Iva Nell Gibbons. Id. Plaintiff and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-four (44) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(e) (SSI). (Tr. 36). As for his level of education, Plaintiff testified he had completed the twelfth grade in high school. Id.

         After this hearing, on April 4, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 6-17). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements under Title II of the Act as of December 30, 2011 (his alleged onset date) and continued to meet them through April 4, 2013 (date of the ALJ's decision). (Tr. 11, Findings 1-2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since December 30, 2011, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy, congestive heart failure, degenerative joint disease, and obesity. (Tr. 11, Finding 4). 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. 11-12, Finding 5).

         The ALJ considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 12-15, Finding 6). 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 sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a).

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 15, Finding 7). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 16, Finding 12). 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 (sedentary, unskilled): (1) assembler (bench hand watch and clock) with 27, 802 such jobs nationwide and 510 such jobs statewide; and (2) machine tender (eye glass frame polisher) with 19, 806 such jobs nationwide and 252 such jobs statewide. (Tr. 16). 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 December 30, 2011 through the date of his decision or through April 4, 2013. (Tr. 16, Finding 13).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 27). On May 13, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff subsequently appealed that unfavorable decision, and his case was reversed and remanded. (Tr. 410-421). Thereafter, the ALJ held a second administrative hearing. (Tr. 360-388). After that hearing, the ALJ again entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 333-351). Plaintiff filed this second and current appeal on July 18, 2016. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on July 19, 2016. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 10, 12. This case is now ripe for determination.

         2. Ap ...


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