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Dixon v. Berryhill

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

January 2, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Jeff A. Dixon (“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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his disability application on May 15, 2013. (Tr. 13, 135-138). In his application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to right elbow synovitis, right wrist arthritis, left arm pain, and neck pain. (Tr. 170). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 30, 2012. (Tr. 13). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 63-82).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 25-47, 91-92). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 29, 2014 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Kristopher Ramsfield. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Larry Seifert testified at this hearing. Id.

         On May 6, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 10-20). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 15, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 30, 2012, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post left biceps tendon rupture and repair; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; osteoarthritis of the right elbow; and osteoarthritis of the bilateral wrists. (Tr. 15, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those 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. 15-16, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 16-19, 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 RFC to perform the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a).


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 19-20, Finding 6). Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's PRW included work as a checker II. Id. Considering his RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this PRW. Id. As such, because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform his PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from April 30, 2012 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through May 6, 2015. (Tr. 20, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 7). On June 15, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On August 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 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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