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Wilcox v. Berryhill

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

September 12, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT



         Carla Wilcox (“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 supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title 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. 6).[2] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.


         Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application for SSI on December 11, 2012. (ECF No. 10, pp. 663, 829). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to: a learning disability and frozen shoulder. (ECF No. 10, p. 833). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 1, 2012. (ECF No. 10, pp. 663, 829). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (ECF No. 10, pp. 705-32).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (ECF No. 10, pp. 787-91). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on May 15, 2014, in Little Rock, Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, pp. 679-700). Plaintiff was present via video teleconference and was represented by Nicholas Coleman. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) David Dellmore testified. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was twenty-eight (28) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). As for her level of education, Plaintiff earned a high school diploma. (ECF No. 10, p. 834).

         After this hearing, on August 7, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (ECF No. 10, pp. 660-74). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since December 11, 2012, her application date. (ECF No. 10, p. 665, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairment: borderline intellectual functioning. (ECF No. 10, p. 665-67, Finding 2). Despite being severe, the ALJ 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 Part 404 (“Listings”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 667-69, Finding 3).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 669-72, Finding 4). 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:

light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b) except [she] is capable of lifting and carrying no more than twenty pounds at a time with frequent lifting and carrying of up to 10 pounds. Further, [she] can perform activities that require a good deal of standing or walking, up to six hours in an eight-hour workday. Moreover, [she] can never work at unprotected heights, around moving or dangerous machinery, or drive a vehicle. Additionally, [she] can never perform frequent overhead reaching with [her] left upper extremity. Furthermore, [she] is limited to performing unskilled work, which is work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, involves few variables, requires little independent judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct and concrete. Finally, [she] cannot perform any work requiring the taking of orders or making of change, such as a waitress or cashier.


         The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had no Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (ECF No. 10, p. 672, Finding 5). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (ECF No. 10, pp. 695-99). 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 cleaner (housekeeping), which has a DOT code of 323.687-014, with approximately four hundred thousand (400, 000) jobs in the national economy and four thousand (4, 000) jobs in Arkansas, and as a document preparer, which has a DOT code of 249.587-018, with approximately sixty thousand (60, 000) jobs in the national economy and five hundred (500) jobs in Arkansas. (ECF No. 10, pp. 672-73, Finding 9). 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 December 11, 2012, through September 4, 2014, the date of the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 10, p. 673, Finding 10).

         Thereafter, on November 3, 2014, Plaintiff requested review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council. (ECF No. 10, pp. 656-59). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on January 16, 2016. (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-11). On March 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. (ECF No. 1). The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on March 23, 2016. (ECF No. 6). 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 ...

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