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Trotter v. Berryhill

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

April 9, 2018

LAMOND TROTTER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Lamond Trotter (“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 applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability under Titles II and 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. 6.[1] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1.Background:

         The Court previously entered an opinion in Plaintiff's case.[2] See Johnson v. SSA, 4:08-cv-04032 (W.D. Ark. June 10, 2009). In that opinion, the Court reversed and remanded Plaintiff's case for further consideration of the Polaski factors. Id. Since the time of that remand, the ALJ held an additional administrative hearing on September 27, 2016. (Tr. 543-570). Thereafter, the ALJ entered an additional unfavorable decision. (Tr. 345-355). This is the decision currently on appeal before the Court.

         In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2006. (Tr. 348, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 21, 2003, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 348, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, cervical and lumbar strains, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 348, Finding 3). 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. 349-350, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 350-354, Finding 5). 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 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that he can occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl and kneel; cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; can occasionally climb stairs and ramps; is unable to balance on narrow or moving surfaces, but is able to balance occasionally on level machinery; can use either upper extremity frequently but not continuously for reaching, handling, fingering and feeling; can understand, remember and carry out short, simple instructions; can perform simple, routine tasks; can make simple work-related decisions; can tolerate few if any workplace changes; and would be able to tolerate occasional interaction with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined he was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 354, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 354-355, Finding 10). 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) addressing clerk with 81, 300 such jobs in the national economy; (2) surveillance system monitor with 113, 020 such jobs in the national economy; and (3) pneumatic tube operator with 71, 760 such jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 355). 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. 355, Finding 11).

         On May 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on May 16, 2017. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 14. This case is now ready for decision.

         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) (2006); 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 ...


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