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Buckley v. Berryhill

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

November 2, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL DEFENDANT Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration



         Clarence Buckley ("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. 9. 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 October 24, 2013. (Tr. 9). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to two hip replacements and being unable to move or stand for long. (Tr. 233). Plaintiff s alleged an onset date of September 25, 2013. (Tr. 9). His applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 82-83, 130-131).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 148). This request was granted, and Plaintiff s administrative hearing was held on March 3, 2015. (Tr. 23-50). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Michael Angel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Dianne Smith testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-eight (48) years old, and had graduated from high school. (Tr. 29).

         On July 24, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiffs applications. (Tr. 9-18). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 11, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since September 25, 2013, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 11, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: bilateral hip replacements due to a vascular necrosis; hypertension; and intermittent left shoulder pain. (Tr. 11, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiffs 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. 11, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff s subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 12, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiffs subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and walk for two hours in an eight-hour workday, with standing intervals of the entire two hour period and waling intervals of no more than a few minutes at a time; sit in intervals of 30 minutes for six hours in an eight-hour workday; and push and pull 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. The ALJ also found Plaintiff cannot perform repetitive foot controls; can occasionally climb stairs, but should avoid crouching, crawling, climbing ladders or scaffolds, and can occasionally stoop, but not all the way down to reach the floor level.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiffs Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 17, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 17, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 45-46). Based upon this testimony and considering his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following jobs: (1) lock assembler with approximately 8, 600 such jobs nationally and 1, 600 regionally and (2) ornament setter and semi conductor assembler with approximately 11, 400 such jobs nationally and 2, 800 regionally. (Tr. 18). 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 September 25, 2013 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 18, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On August 1, 2016, the Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On August 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in his case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 18, 19. This case is now ready for determination.

         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) (2010); 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 that supports 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), 1382(3)(c). A ...

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