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Beckham v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

March 27, 2018



         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. Any party may file written objections to this Recommendation. Objections must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for the objection.

         To be considered, all objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. If no objections are filed, Judge Marshall can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, parties may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         On August 19, 2014, Gary W. Beckham applied for disability benefits, alleging disability beginning November 10, 2013. (Tr. at 41) Mr. Beckham's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Mr. Beckham's application. (Tr. at 51) Mr. Beckham requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 1) Therefore, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Mr. Beckham filed this case seeking judicial review of the decision denying him benefits.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Mr. Beckham had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the onset of his alleged disability, November 10, 2013. (Tr. at 43) At step two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Beckham had the following severe impairments: obesity, hypertension, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus, arthropathy, somatoform disorder, alcohol and substance abuse disorder, personality disorders, anxiety, and affective disorders. Id.

         After finding that Mr. Beckham's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 44), the ALJ determined that Mr. Beckham had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of sedentary work, with some limitations. (Tr. at 46) He could only occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl, and knee; and could only occasionally reach overhead with the dominant upper extremity. Id. He further limited him to work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, and the complexity of tasks could be learned within 30 days by demonstration or repetition. Further, he was limited to tasks with only few variables that require little judgment and simple, direct, and concrete supervision. Id.

         The ALJ found that Mr. Beckham was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. (Tr. at 50) At step five, however, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find, after considering Mr. Beckham's age, education, work experience and RFC, that he was capable of performing work in the national economy as basic table worker and paster and cutter of small component parts. (Tr. at 51) The ALJ determined, therefore, that Mr. Beckham was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). A Substantial evidence" in this context means “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support he ALJ's decision.” Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009)(citation omitted). In making its determination, the Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also, evidence that supports a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision, however, Amerely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision." Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         B. Mr. Beckham's Arguments on Appeal

         In this appeal, Mr. Beckham contends that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. He argues that the ALJ should have given more weight to the opinion of Dr. Samuel Hester, Ph.D.; that the jobs identified by the VE do not exist in significant numbers in the national economy; and that the ALJ's credibility finding was flawed.

         Mr. Beckham focuses his argument on his shoulder injury and mental impairments. According to his medical records, he complained of shoulder pain as early as July 22, 2013, but a clinical exam on that date showed normal motor strength in the shoulder with normal tone in all extremities. (Tr. at 562). Normal findings do not support Mr. ...

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