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Antonio v. Berryhill

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

September 5, 2017

FRANCES RHUAVA ANTONIO PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1]DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Frances Rhuava Antonio (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“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).[2] 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 for DIB and SSI on October 30, 2013. (ECF No. 10, pp. 13). In her applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to: hepatitis type C, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, weakness, anxiety, and ascites. (ECF No. 10, p. 205). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2013. (ECF No. 10, pp. 13, 200). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 10, pp. 47-106).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied applications, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 10, pp. 140-58). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on May 4, 2015, in Little Rock, Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, pp. 28-46). Plaintiff was present and was represented by Hans E. Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mack Welsh testified. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-eight (48) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). As for her level of education, Plaintiff earned a high school diploma and completed three years of college. (ECF No. 10, p. 31).

         After this hearing, on August 7, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 10, pp. 9-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2017. (ECF No. 10, p. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2013, her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 10, p. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: liver disease, mood disorder, neck pain, status post cervical corpectomy, and hepatitis C. (ECF No. 10, p. 14, 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 Part 404 (“Listings”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 14-16, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 16-20, 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 sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(a) except [she] can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, bend, crouch, kneel, or crawl; she can perform work in a setting where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of the task is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, little judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.

Id.

         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff was unable to perform her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 10, p. 20, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 10, pp. 40-45). Based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform, such as a charge account clerk, which has a DOT code of 205.367-014, with approximately one thousand one hundred (1, 100) jobs in the national economy, and as a ceramic tile inspector, which has a DOT code of 739.687-182, with approximately thirty thousand (30, 000) jobs in the national economy. (ECF No. 10, pp. 20-21, Finding 10). Because jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy which Plaintiff can perform, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from January 1, 2013, through August 7, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 10, p. 21, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, on August 19, 2015, Plaintiff requested review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 10, p. 8). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on September 12, 2016. (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-7). On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 27, 2016. (ECF No. 7). 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) (2006); 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 to support 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 draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. see Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. see Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a “physical or mental impairment” as “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D). A plaintiff must show his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. see 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove there are other jobs in the national economy the claimant can perform. see Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The fact finder only considers the plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is reached. see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         3. ...


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