United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lezette Clark (“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 claim for a period of
disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act.
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.
protectively filed her disability application on April 29,
2014. (Tr. 11, 135-142). Plaintiff alleges being disabled due
to bulging disc in her back, arthritis, diabetes, glaucoma,
depression, anxiety, asthma, open heart surgery, high blood
pressure, and fluid retention. (Tr. 157, 187). Plaintiff
alleges an onset date of April 4, 2014. (Tr. 11, 136). This
application was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 58, 70, 84-86, 90-91).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied
application. (Tr. 92-93). The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) granted that request and held an
administrative video hearing on October 8, 2015. (Tr. 35-57).
The ALJ presided over the hearing from Alexandria, Louisiana,
and the Plaintiff appeared and testified in El Dorado,
Arkansas. Id. At the hearing, Plaintiff was
represented by David C. Graham. Id. Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Charles E. Smith also appeared and
testified at the hearing. Id. At this hearing,
Plaintiff testified she obtained a high school diploma,
completed about two years of college, but did not receive a
degree, and was a certified nursing assistant
(“CNA”). (Tr. 40-41).
this hearing, on November 25, 2015, the ALJ entered a
decision. (Tr. 11-20). In this decision, the ALJ found
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act
through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ found
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since the alleged onset date. (Tr. 13,
Finding 2). The ALJ determined since the alleged onset date
of disability, April 4, 2014, Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, essential
hypertension, spine disorder, and obesity. (Tr. 13, Finding
3). Since the alleged onset date of disability, April 4,
2014, 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, Finding 4).
then considered Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (Tr. 14-17, 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 since April 4, 2014, the claimant has
the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1567(a) except she is limited to lifting/carrying
10 pounds, occasionally, less than 10 pounds, frequently,
sitting 6 hours in an 8-hour day, and standing/walking 2
hours in an 8-hour day. In addition, she is limited to
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, never climbing
ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and occasional stooping,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and found since April 4, 2014, Plaintiff
has been unable to perform any PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 6).
Prior to the established disability onset date, the Plaintiff
was a younger individual age 45-49. (Tr. 18, Finding 7).
Applying the age categories non-mechanically, and considering
the additional adversities in this case, on October 8, 2015,
the Plaintiff's age category changed to an individual
closely approaching advanced age (20 C.F.R. § 404.1563).
to October 8, 2015, transferability of job skills is not
material to the determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the Plaintiff is “not disabled” whether or
not the Plaintiff has transferable job skills. (Tr. 18,
Finding 9). Beginning on October 8, 2015, the Plaintiff has
not been able to transfer job skills to other occupations
(See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 2). Id.
to October 8, 2015, the date the Plaintiff's age category
changed, considering the Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that the
Plaintiff could have performed (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1569 and 404.1569a). (Tr. 18-19, Finding 10). The VE
testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue.
Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following: (1)
cutter and paster (sedentary, unskilled, SVP 2) with 194, 977
such jobs in the United States and 1, 991 such jobs in
Arkansas; and (2) final assembler (sedentary, unskilled, SVP
2) with 59, 503 such jobs in the United States and 1, 263
such jobs in Arkansas. Id.
date of birth is February 5, 1966. (Tr. 136). At the hearing
held on October 8, 2015, Plaintiff was 49 years and 8 months
old, which under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines is
classified as a younger person. (Tr. 35-57). In a borderline
situation, the age categories will not be applied
mechanically “if [Plaintiff] is within a few days to a
few months of reaching an older age category, and using the
older age category would result in a determination or
decision [Plaintiff] is disabled, we will consider whether to
use the older age category after evaluating the overall
impact of all factors in the case.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1563(b). In his decision, the ALJ ultimately determined
Plaintiff's age category was a borderline situation and
should not be applied mechanically. (Tr. 18). The ALJ
reasoned that the length of time between the established
onset date and reaching the next age category is a period of