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Newkirk v. Berryhill

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

July 24, 2017

MICHELLE L. NEWKIRK PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Michelle L. Newkirk (“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 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. 6.[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 applications on June 14, 2013 (DIB) and on June 27, 2013 (SSI). (Tr. 15). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to high blood pressure, back surgery, and herniated discs. (Tr. 219). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 30, 2012. (Tr. 15). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 86-89).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications. (Tr. 131-132). The ALJ granted that request and held an administrative hearing on December 3, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Tr. 32-67). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Devon Brady. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Norman A. Mastbaum testified at this hearing. Id.

         After this hearing, on January 12, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 12-26). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 17, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 30, 2012, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 17, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and obesity. (Tr. 18, 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. 18, Finding 4).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff was fifty (50) years old on her alleged disability onset date, which is defined as an “individual closely approaching advanced age.” (Tr. 24, Finding 7). As for her level of education, the ALJ determined she had a limited education but was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 24, Findings 7-8).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 19-24, 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 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) and 416.967(b); except claimant must be able to stand for ten minutes after every fifty minutes of sitting, and must be able to sit for fifteen minutes after every fort-five minutes of standing or walking. She may never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and may only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 24, 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) park lot cashier (light, unskilled) with 1, 100 such jobs in the state and 60, 000 such jobs in the nation; (2) folder or bagger in the laundry business (light, unskilled) with 400 such jobs in the state and 15, 000 such jobs in the nation; and (3) paper folding machine operator (light, unskilled) with 820 such jobs in state and 106, 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, from June 30, 2012 through the date of his decision or through January 12, 2015. (Tr. 26, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 6-10). On June 10, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-3). On August 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with the Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 17, 2016. ECF No. 6. ...


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