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Merrell v. Berryhill

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

January 23, 2018

MARK MERRELL PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Mark Merrell (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title 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. 5.[1] 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 July 22, 2013. (Tr. 11, 136-141). In this application, Plaintiff alleges he was disabled due to knee problems, heart problems, and anxiety attacks. (Tr. 159). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of November 30, 2012. (Tr. 11). This application was denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 51-68).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 24-50, 95). An administrative hearing was held on June 18, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Tr. 24-50). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mr. Rousey testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-one (31) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI), and testified he had completed the eleventh grade in high school. (Tr. 28-29).

         On July 31, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 8-19). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since July 22, 2013, his application date. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “degenerative joint disease in both knees; panic disorder with agoraphobia; generalized anxiety disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; learning disorder.” (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 13-14, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15-18, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except the individual can occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl and climb stairs, ramps, ladders, and scaffolds; can understand, remember and carry out short, simple instructions; can perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks with no fast-paced high quota production work; can make only simple work-related decisions; can adapt to few if any workplace changes; and can tolerate only occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public.

(Tr. 15-18, Finding 4).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined he had no PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 5). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18-19, Finding 9). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id.

         Specifically, the VE testified that a hypothetical person with Plaintiff's limitations retained the capacity to perform work such as (1) addresser with 101, 000 such jobs in the national economy; (2) document preparer with 2, 800, 000 such jobs in the national economy; and (3) surveillance system monitor with 79, 000 such jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 19). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not under a “disability, ” as defined by the Act, at any time through the date of his decision. (Tr. 19, Finding 10).

         On August 14, 2015, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 6). On September 14, 2016, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). On November 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on November 14, 2016. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 14. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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