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Belk v. Berryhill

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

August 18, 2017

THOMAS BELK PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Thomas Belk (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and 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. 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 28, 2013. (Tr. 12). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to respiratory problems and a cut windpipe. (Tr. 203). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 15, 2004. (Tr. 12). His applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 67-110).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 134-135). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on June 13, 2014 in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 9-24). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Anderson testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.965(c) (SSI). (Tr. 33). As for his education, Plaintiff testified he graduated from high school but never received additional education. (Tr. 33).

         On June 11, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 9-24). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2008. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 15, 2004, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic pulmonary insufficiency, limited visual acuity, and other unspecified arthropathies. (Tr. 15-18, 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. 18, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 18-22, Finding 5). 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 capacity to perform the following:

Giving claimant the benefit of the doubt, I find that he has the ability to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) [lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently]. He can stand and/or walk for about two hours in an eight-hour workday, but sit up to six hours in an eight-hour workday. He is not limited in pushing and/or pulling with his upper or lower extremities. The claimant's vision is reduced by limited near acuity that requires avoiding work that involves reading print smaller than found in newsprint. He has no other exertional limitations.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found he had no PRW he could perform. (Tr. 22, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 23-24, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id.

         Based upon this testimony and considering his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following light occupations: (1) folder with 52, 00 such jobs in the nation and 1, 300 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) assembler with 54, 000 such jobs in the nation and 600 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) buckler/lacer with 52, 000 such jobs in the nation and 1, 000 such jobs in Arkansas. (Tr. 23). 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 15, 2004 through the date of his decision or through June 11, 2015. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On June 23, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 6, 9, 11. This case is now ready for determination.

         2. Ap ...


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