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Bridges v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

January 23, 2018

JANET DELISE BRIDGES PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Janet Delise Bridges (“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 application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 8. 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 application on December 27, 2012. (Tr. 18, 137-140). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to diabetes, legal blindness in her right eye, and problems with her left eye. (Tr. 178). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of December 27, 2012 but later amended that onset date to October 7, 2013. (Tr. 18). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 63-77).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 37-62, 90-91). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 22, 2015 in Texarkana, Arkansas. (Tr. 37-62). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Daniel Webb. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mr. Thomas[1] testified at the hearing. Id.

         On August 4, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB application. (Tr. 15-26). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 20, Finding 10). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since October 7, 2013, her amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 20, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: brittle diabetes and proliferative diabetic eye disease. (Tr. 20, 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. 21, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ also evaluated Plaintiff's age and education level. Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff was forty-eight (48) years old on her amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 24, Finding 7). At this age, she was characterized as a “younger individual” pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). Id. The ALJ also determined Plaintiff reached fifty (50) years old before the date of the ALJ's decision. Id. Such a person is characterized as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d). Id. As for her education, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had a high school education, completed several years in college, and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 24, Finding 8).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 21-24, 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 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that she cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; she must avoid hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; and she cannot drive motorized vehicles as part of the job. She has monocular vision with no vision in the right eye, cannot work in a position that requires depth perception, is required to wear safety glasses to protect the left eye, and can have only occasional work with computers or other bright screens.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 24, Finding 6). Considering her limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a library assistant or as an office manager. (Tr. 24, Finding 6). The ALJ, however, also evaluated whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 25, Finding 10). Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform light, unskilled jobs such as laundry worker with 306, 000 such jobs in the national economy and hand packager with 57, 000 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 in the Act, from December 27, 2012 through the date of her decision or through August 4, 2015. (Tr. 25, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 12). On July 29, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On September 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 14-15. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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