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Wagner v. Berryhill

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

December 14, 2017

SHANNON WAGNER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Shannon Wagner (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), 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. 4. 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 November 17, 2014 (DIB) and on December 1, 2014 (SSI). (Tr. 11, 241-249). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to migraines, back problems, neck problems, feet problems, high blood pressure, a mini stroke, asthma, “female pain issues, ” obesity, and “gray matter effects motor skills.” (Tr. 265). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 20, 2013. (Tr. 11). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 192-197).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications. (Tr. 197). This request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on September 4, 2015 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 34-88). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Michael Hamby. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Floyd Massey testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-three (43) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI). (Tr. 40). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she had obtained her GED. (Tr. 42-43).

         On November 17, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 8-27). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2016. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 20, 2013, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: morbid obesity; migraines; hypertensive vascular disease; cervical, thoracic, and lumbar degenerative disease; plantar fasciitis; GERD; diabetes mellitus; asthma “and/or” mild persistent reactive airway disease; obstructive sleep apnea; major depressive disorder; and anxiety. (Tr. 13-15, 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. 15-17, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 17-25, 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 capacity to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift up to 20 pounds occasionally, lift or carry up to 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk up to two of eight hours or sit up to six hours with normal breaks; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasionally climb entry ramps and stairs; frequently balance; occasionally stoop, kneel and crouch; never crawl; avoid concentrated exposure to moving machinery or unprotected heights; no concentrated to exposure to extremes of heat/cold/wetness/humidity; no concentrated exposure to chemicals, fumes, dust, and other pulmonary irritants; frequently handle and finger bilaterally; can understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine and repetitive tasks but not at a production rate pace (e.g. assembly line work); can perform simple work-related decisions, use judgment, accept instructions; and can respond appropriately to changes in routine work settings.

Id.

         Considering her RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 25, Finding 6). The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 26-27, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the requirements of representative occupations such document preparer with 14, 425 such jobs in the national economy. Id. 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 her alleged onset date of April 20, 2013 through the date of her decision or through November 17, 2015. (Tr. 27, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 6). On October 6, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On November 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this action. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 4, 10-11. 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) (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 ...


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