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Harrison v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

January 8, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT



         Stanley Harrison (“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 period of disability under Title II 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. 7. 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 application on June 13, 2014. (Tr. 11). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to psoriatic arthritis, bilateral knee pain, upper body shoulder pain and weakness, painful psoriasis, coronary atherosclerosis of native coronary artery, claudication-intermittent, coronary artery disease, hypertension chronic, and congestive heart failure. (Tr. 353). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of March 28, 2014. (Tr. 11). His application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 282-288).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application. (Tr. 289). This request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on November 5, 2015. (Tr. 210-245). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Mary Thomason. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Thomas Mungall testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was fifty-one (51) years old, and had a ninth grade education. (Tr. 215-216).

         On December 29, 2015, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 11-24). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since March 28, 2014, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: ischemic heart disease and degenerative joint disease. (Tr. 13, 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, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15, 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 had the RFC to perform light work except can only occasionally reach overhead bilaterally, occasionally climb ramps/stairs, but never ladders/ropes/scaffolds; occasionally kneel, stoop, crouch, and crawl, but never balance; should not be exposed to hazards such as unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, or operating a motor vehicle; should have no exposure to humidity and wetness; should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, and other environmental irritants; and should never he exposed to extreme cold/heat. Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 23, Finding 6). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 23, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. (Tr. 239-244). Based upon this testimony and considering his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following jobs: (1) cafeteria attendant with approximately 145, 904 such jobs nationally, (2) fast food worker with approximately 2, 321, 421, and (3) housekeeping with approximately 229, 918 such jobs nationally. (Tr. 24). 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 March 28, 2014 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 24, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 39). On December 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On January 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in his case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 17. 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. §§ ...

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