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Walker v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

May 25, 2018

PHILLIP WALKER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Phillip Walker (“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 a period of disability, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title 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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on January 26, 2015. (Tr. 21). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to PTSD, depression, sleep disorder, gastrointestinal problems, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 246). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 1, 2012. (Tr. 21). His applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 71-118).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 4, 2016 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 42-70). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by R. Scott Johnson. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Barbara Hubbard testified at this hearing. Id.

         On April 1, 2016, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 18-35). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 23, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 1, 2012, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 23, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: ventral incisional hernia repair; obesity; gout; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus; major depressive disorder; and PTSD with a history of child emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. (Tr. 23-24, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that 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. 24-27, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 27-33, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find 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 no ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no unprotected heights; no work around loud noises; can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and tasks; and can interact appropriately with supervisors, coworkers, and the public but only occasional interaction with the public.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 33, Finding 6). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability (as defined by the Act) from June 1, 2012 through the date of her decision or through April 1, 2016. (Tr. 34, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On April 27, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 5, 13-14. This case is now ready for determination.

         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) (2010); 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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