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Smith v. Berryhill

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

June 7, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Barry Smith, (“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 application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) 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. 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 application for DIB and SSI on March 21, 2011. (Tr. 145). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to diabetes, atrial flutter, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 511). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 145). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 262-275).

         Plaintiff's initial administrative hearing was held on December 10, 2012. (Tr. 166-192). Following this hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 224-233). On August 27, 2014, the Appeals Council granted review and remanded this matter for further proceedings. (Tr. 239-244).

         Plaintiff's second administrative hearing was held on October 27, 2015. (Tr. 193-216). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Harris Rowzie testified at the hearing. Id.

         On March 18, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 145-157). In this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2011. (Tr. 148, Finding 1). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 1, 2007. (Tr. 148, Finding 2).

         The ALJ also found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: hypertension, diabetes mellitus (type I), atrial fibrillation, and atrial flutter (Tr. 148, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those impairments did not 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. 151, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 151, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform the full range of sedentary work. Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 156, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing his PRW as a dispatcher. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from January 1, 2007 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 156, Finding 7).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 465-467). The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-5). On August 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11, 14. 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. §§ ...

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