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Bryan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

May 25, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Samuel J. Bryan (“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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), 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. 5.[1] 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 July 28, 2014 (DIB) and on February 28, 2015 (SSI). (Tr. 20). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to blindness in his left eye since birth, ulnar nerve dysfunction in his left arm, post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic arthritis, and migraine headaches. (Tr. 159). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged an onset date of September 24, 2000. (Tr. 20). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 39-57).

         After Plaintiff's applications were denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 126). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on February 24, 2016 in El Dorado, Arkansas. (Tr. 441-473). During this hearing, Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Charles Edward Smith testified. Id.

         On March 29, 2016, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 17-34). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2007. (Tr. 22, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 24, 2000, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 22, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: reduced visual acuity in the left eye and mild cervical degenerative disk disease. (Tr. 22-27, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the listed impairments or “Listings” in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 27-28, Finding 4).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff was thirty-eight (38) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 448). As for his education, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had completed high school but had received no additional training beyond high school. (Tr. 449).

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and assessed his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 17-34). After assessing his subjective complaints, the ALJ determined his allegations were not entirely credible and found he retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) with the exceptions listed herein. He can occasionally push/pull hand controls on the left; occasionally climb ramps/stairs; never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds; never balance; never be exposed to hazards, such as unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, and operating motor vehicles; he could avoid ordinary hazards in the work place; he can perform work that does not require good depth perception; and he should not be exposed to extreme heat.

Id. The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 32-33, Finding 6). Based upon his RFC and PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff remained capable of performing his PRW as a cook helper and waiter because this “work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity.” (Tr. 32-33, Finding 6). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from September 24, 2000 through the date of her decision or through April 1, 2016. (Tr. 33, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. On March 9, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). On April 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on April 18, 2017. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13-14. 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) (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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