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Sheets v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

June 20, 2018

GARRETT L. SHEETS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Garrett L. Sheets, applied for disability benefits on June 13, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2008. (Tr. at 17). A prior claim was denied at the hearing level on December 16, 2011, so the relevant time-period for adjudication of benefits in this case is December 17, 2011 through the date last insured for Mr. Sheets, which is December 31, 2013. Id. After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in this case denied Mr. Sheets' application. (Tr. at 29). The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 1). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Mr. Sheets has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court should affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         II. The Commissioner=s Decision:

         The ALJ found that Mr. Sheets had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time-period of December 17, 2011 through December 31, 2013. (Tr. at 19). At Step Two of the sequential five-step analysis, the ALJ found that Mr. Sheets has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder, obesity, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Tr. at 20).

         The ALJ found that Mr. Sheets' impairment did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Tr. at 20). Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Sheets had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at the light level, with the following exceptions: he could perform work where the interpersonal contact is routine and superficial, the complexity of tasks is learned by experience, involves several variables, and involves the use of judgment within limits, and the supervision is little for routine, but detailed for non-routine tasks. (Tr. at 22).

         The ALJ next found that Mr. Sheets was unable to perform past relevant work. (Tr. at 27). However, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, considering Mr. Sheets' age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform. (Tr. at 28). Therefore, the ALJ found that Mr. Sheets was not disabled. Id.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however, “merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”

Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole which supports the decision of the ALJ. Miller, 784 F.3d at 477. The Court has ...


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