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Rodden v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

March 13, 2018

JOSHUA DAVID RODDEN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Joshua David Rodden (“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 claim 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. 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 April 7, 2014. (Tr. 10, 215-218). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), paranoid schizophrenia, paranoia, hallucinations, oppositional defiant disorder (“ODD”), and depression. (Tr. 121, 137, 155, 159, 226, 258, 276). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of February 19, 2013. (Tr. 10, 215). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 120-157, 159-160).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) granted that request and held an administrative hearing on July 16, 2015 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 35-119). At the hearing, Plaintiff was present and testified and was represented by Shannon Muse Caroll. Id. Plaintiff's wife, Shannon Rodden, also appeared and testified at the hearing. Id. Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dianne G. Smith also testified at this hearing via telephone. Id.

         At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was thirty-three (33) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB). (Tr. 40). As for his level of education, Plaintiff testified he completed the ninth grade. (Tr. 42, 65, 98).

         After this hearing, on October 19, 2015, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 10-22). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2014. (Tr. 10, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) during the period from his alleged onset date of February 19, 2013 through his date last insured of December 31, 2014, but he did work after the alleged onset date on a part-time basis. (Tr. 10, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: superior glenoid labrum lesion, status post right shoulder arthroscopy with labral debridement and biceps tenodesis, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, and antisocial personality disorder. (Tr. 10, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined these 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. 14-15, Finding 4).

         The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 15-21, 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 medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c) except the claimant can work unskilled work or semiskilled work he has done in the past. The claimant can have contact with supervision and co-workers if superficial (meet/greet, ask for directions and instructions). The claimant can have limited contact or no contact with the public (e.g., no cashier work).

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff is able to perform his PRW as a machine operator II (medium, semiskilled) or machine tender (light, unskilled). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this work, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from February 19, 2013, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2014, the date last insured. (Tr. 21, Finding 7). The ALJ considered re-opening the prior application for DIB filed on April 4, 2013 and the prior application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) filed on April 18, 2013, but he ultimately found no basis to do so. (Tr. 10).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 5-6). On September 20, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request. (Tr. 1-4). On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on October 11, 2016. ECF No. 5. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 16. On January 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand for Supplemental Hearing to Consider Additional Evidence (“Motion to Remand”). ECF No. 17. The Defendant objected to the Motion to Remand on January 23, 2018. ECF No. 20. On January 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed a reply to the Defendant's objection. ECF No. 22. The Motion to Remand was denied by the Court on January 30, 2018 because Plaintiff did not make a showing that any of the information submitted, including the mental assessment provided by Dr. Sean Kaley, M.D. on November 15, 2017, was “material” to the ALJ's disability determination. ECF No. 25. This case is now ripe 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. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at ...


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