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Fornoff v. Berryhill

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

April 27, 2018

JEREMY FORNOFF PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Jeremy Fornoff, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claim for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under the provisions of Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). In this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Procedural Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed his current application for SSI on September 29, 2014, alleging an inability to work due to back problems, right knee problems, anger issues and high blood pressure. (Tr. 67). An administrative hearing was held on February 8, 2016, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 27-65).

         By written decision dated June 17, 2016, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 12). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 14). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except that he can occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, crouch and reach overhead bilaterally.

(Tr. 14). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform work as a marking clerk, a furniture rental clerk and a toll collector. (Tr. 20).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which denied that request on May 24, 2017. (Tr. 1-6). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is before the undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs. 11, 14).

         The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         II. Evidence Presented:

         At the administrative hearing held before the ALJ on February 8, 2016, Plaintiff, who was forty-one years of age, testified that he obtained an eleventh grade education. (Tr. 31). Plaintiff's past relevant work consists of a composite job as a fork lift operator and a laborer. (Tr. 60-61). Prior to the relevant time period, Plaintiff sought treatment for various impairments to include, but not limited to chronic back pain, neck pain, right knee pain, high blood pressure, and right wrist pain.

         The medical evidence pertinent to the relevant time period reflects the following. On October 15, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. William Piechal of the Healing Arts Medical Center. (Tr. 340-344). Plaintiff complained of low back, right knee and right wrist pain. Plaintiff reported gathering fire wood aggravated his problems. Dr. Piechal noted Plaintiff's gait was steady and he ambulated without assistance. After examining Plaintiff, Dr. Piechal assessed Plaintiff with chronic pain syndrome. Trigger point injections were administered.

         On November 12, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Piechal for a follow-up appointment. (Tr. 431-435). Plaintiff reported an increase in pain due to the cold weather. Plaintiff received trigger point injections.

         On December 11, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Piechal for a follow-up appointment. (Tr. 426-430). Plaintiff complained of low back pain. Plaintiff also complained of bilateral hip and knee pain and right shoulder pain. Plaintiff also complained of a head cold. Plaintiff received trigger point injections.

         On January 9, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Piechal for a follow-up appointment. (Tr. 420-425). Plaintiff complained of neck pain, back pain, bilateral hip pain and right knee pain. A musculoskeletal exam was normal with the exception of an ...


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