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Hall v. Berryhill

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

June 6, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Danny W. Hall (“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. 7.[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 March 9, 2015. (Tr. 40, 211-224). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges he was disabled due to a back injury, a separated left shoulder, a torn rotator cuff, hernia repairs, and a weakened knee. (Tr. 250). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 25, 2014. (Tr. 40). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 81-132).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 158-185). An administrative hearing was held on April 12, 2016 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 57-80). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, David K. Harp. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Stafford testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-nine (49) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB), and testified he had completed the twelfth grade in school. (Tr. 59).

         On June 2, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 37-50). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2018. (Tr. 42, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since December 23, 2014, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 42, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: hypertension, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine; osteoarthritis; and a history of inguinal hernia status post-surgery. (Tr. 42-43, 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. 43, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 43-48, 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 the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a).


         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined he was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 48-49, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 49, Finding 11). The ALJ based this determination upon the Medical-Vocational Guidelines or “Grids.” Id. Specifically, the ALJ applied Grid Rule 201.21, which directed a finding of “not disabled.” Id.

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr.1). On May 3, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). On June 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on July 6, 2017. ECF No. 7. 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) (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. SeeHaley v. Massanari,258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to draw ...

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