United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Aundre Easter (“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
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.
protectively filed his disability application on September
12, 2011. (Tr. 83-90). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due
to a sleeping disorder, fractured knee, torn anterior
cruciate ligament, left hand carpal tunnel syndrome, heart
problems, breathing problems, hypertension, and decreased
left eye vision. (Tr. 22-39, 114, 132). Plaintiff alleges an
onset date of August 31, 2011. (Tr. 83). This application was
denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 40-42,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied
application. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
granted that request and held an administrative video hearing
on April 23, 2013. (Tr. 21-39). Following the administrative
hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr.
10-17). Upon appeal to this Court, the matter was remanded to
the Commissioner for further consideration of Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). (Tr.
290-295). On May 26, 2016, the ALJ held a supplemental
administrative hearing in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 247-269).
At the hearing, Plaintiff testified and was represented by
Hans Pullen. Id. A medical expert, Dr. Kweli J.
Amusa, M.D., testified at this hearing, and a vocational
expert, Dr. Thomas E. Bott, Ph.D., also testified.
23, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 235-240). The ALJ
found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since September 12, 2011, the
application date. (Tr. 237, Finding 1). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post
right anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”) tear and
meniscus tear; and status post ACL reconstruction. (Tr. 237,
Finding 2). 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”), and
specifically Listing 1.02. (Tr. 237, Finding 3).
then considered Plaintiff's RFC. (Tr. 237-240, Finding
4). 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 light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b).
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and with the assistance of the vocational
expert testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff is capable of
performing past relevant work as a barber. (Tr. 240, Finding
5). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff has not been under a
disability, as defined by the Act, since September 12, 2011,
the date the application was filed. (Tr. 240, Finding 6).
Plaintiff submitted exceptions to the ALJ's decision to
the Appeals Council on July 13, 2016. (Tr. 227-231). On
December 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied this request
finding no reason under the rules to assume jurisdiction.
(Tr. 222-224). On January 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1. The Parties
consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on February 21,
2017. ECF No. 8. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF
Nos. 12, 13. This case is now ripe for determination.
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 ...