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Ramirez v. Berryhill

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

July 19, 2017

ELIZABETH RAMIREZ PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Elizabeth Ramirez ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title 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. 7.[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 July 8, 2013. (Tr. 8). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to drug and alcohol addiction, arthritis, and anxiety. (Tr. 191). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 8, 2013. (Tr. 8). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 50-85).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 104-106). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on January 6, 2015 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 24-49). At that hearing, Plaintiff as present and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Mack Welch testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-six (46) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 29). As for his level of education, Plaintiff testified she had obtained her GED. Id.

         After this hearing, on May 14, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiffs disability application. (Tr. 5-18). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since July 8, 2013, her application date. (Tr. 10, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine status post fusion at ¶ 6-7; mild degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; fibromyalgia; carpal tunnel syndrome; affective disorder; and anxiety disorder. (Tr. 10, Finding 2). 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. 10-12, Finding 3).

         The ALJ considered Plaintiffs Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"). (Tr. 12-16, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the following:

The claimant retains the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; and push/or pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. She can occasionally reach overhead with both left and right arms. The claimant retains the mental ability to understand, remember and carryout simple job instructions; make judgments in simple work related situations; respond appropriately to co-workers/supervisors with occasional incidental contact that is not necessary to perform the work; respond appropriately to minor changes in usual work routine; and have no dealings with the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiffs Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff has no PRW. (Tr. 16, Finding 5). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 17-18, Finding 9). 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) inspector checker (ceramic tile inspector) with 30, 000 such jobs in the nation, 6, 000 such jobs in the region, and 700 such jobs in the state; and (2) inspector checker (circuit board inspector) with 35, 000 such jobs in the nation, 7, 000 such jobs in the region, and 700 such jobs in the state. (Tr. 17-18, Finding 9). 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 July 8, 2013 (application date) through May 14, 2015 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 18, Finding 10).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 4). On June 6, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). Thereafter, on August 8, 2016, Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's unfavorable decision to this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 9, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11-12. This case is now ripe for determination.

         2. Ap ...


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