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Bickham v. Berryhill

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

May 10, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Kimberly Bickham, on behalf of David Bickham (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II 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. 5.[2] Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff filed his application for DIB on June 4, 2012. (Tr. 101-104). Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due to diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, kidney failure, dementia, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, calcaneal spur, anemia, fatigue, edema, nosebleeds, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and cataracts. (Tr. 163). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of June 2, 2012. (Tr. 947). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and at the reconsideration level. (Tr. 45-49). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application. (Tr. 55-56).

         The ALJ held a hearing on November 6, 2013, and issued an unfavorable decision on December 18, 2013, which Plaintiff appealed. (Tr. 6-19, 25-44). On December 21, 2015, this Court remanded the case back to the ALJ for another hearing. (Tr. 1008-1015).

         Following remand, Plaintiff had a second hearing which was held on September 20, 2016. (Tr. 992-1005). Plaintiff was present and was represented by his attorney, Greg Giles, at this hearing. See Id. Plaintiff testified at this hearing. See id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff was sixty-four (64) years old, and had a twelfth grade education. (Tr. 29-30).

         On October 19, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 947-956). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 949, Finding 1). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 2, 2012. (Tr. 949, Finding 2).

         The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of hypertension, diabetes with neuropathy, chronic kidney disease stage III, cataracts, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. (Tr. 949, Finding 3). The ALJ determined, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 951, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 952-955). First, the ALJ indicated evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints pursuant to the requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529 and 20 C.F.R. § 416.929 and found his claimed limitations were not totally credible. (Tr. 953). Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for the full range of light work. (Tr. 952, Finding 5).

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff capable of performing his PRW as a poultry machine tender. (Tr. 955, Finding 6). Based on this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from June 2, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 955, Finding 7).

         On October 31, 2016, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1076-1077). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968. On March 22, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 938-943). On July 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on July 6, 2017. ECF No. 5. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 10. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         It is well established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a “physical or mental impairment” as “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. ...

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