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Neitzel v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

June 13, 2018

IRMA MARIE NEITZEL PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Irma Marie Neitzel (“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 her 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. 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 her disability application on September 20, 2011. (Tr. 14). In this application, Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to nerve damage to her right arm and hand. (Tr. 135). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 14, 2011. (Tr. 14). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 45-46).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 26-44). An administrative hearing was held on October 25, 2012 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 26-44). At this administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth Clem testified at this hearing. Id.

         On January 23, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 11-21). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of Act through June 30, 2016. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since September 14, 2011, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 16, Finding 2). The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post fracture of the right humerus and joint dysfunction. (Tr. 16, 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. 16-17, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 17-19, 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is to have no rapid, repetitive, flexion or extension of the hands.

Id. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was fifty-four (54) years old, which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d). (Tr. 20, Finding 7). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 20, Finding 8).

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 20-21, Finding 10). Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform semi-skilled, light work such as work as a personal care assistant with 3, 400 such jobs in Arkansas and 350, 000 such jobs in the United States. Id. Accordingly, based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from September 14, 2011 through the date of the ALJ's decision or through January 23, 2013. (Tr. 21, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). On March 12, 2014, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. Id. On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on August 18, 2017. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12-13. 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. 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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