United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Denning, (“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 Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Act.
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. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this
memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment
in this matter.
protectively filed his application for SSI on January 30,
2015. (Tr. 154-159). In this application, Plaintiff alleges
being disabled due to Alpha 1 Antitrypsin deficiency,
degenerative disc disease, a pinched nerve, fatigue, and
shortness of breath. (Tr. 166, 177, 190). This application
was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr.
65-75, 77-88). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, and that hearing request was granted.
administrative hearing was held on June 29, 2016. (Tr.
35-63). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Sherri McDonough. Id.
Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Charles
Turner, testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of
the hearing, Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old and
obtained his GED and Associates Degree. (Tr. 39).
the hearing, on September 8, 2016, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for
SSI. (Tr. 20-31). In this decision, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since January 30, 2015. (Tr. 22, Finding
1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and
cervical spine, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD). (Tr. 22, Finding 2). 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. 24, Finding 3).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 24, Finding 4).
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 light work and could
lift and carry, push and pull up to 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently; sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday; stand and walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday;
could occasionally reach overhead with his bilateral upper
extremities; and frequently stoop and crouch; but must avoid
unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, and extreme
heat, dusts, odors, fumes, and pulmonary irritants.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 30, Finding 5). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff had no PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also
determined there was other work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr.
30, Finding 9). The ALJ based this determination upon the
testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE
testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors,
a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the
requirements of representative occupations such as sales
attendant with approximately 95, 000 such jobs in the nation,
and assembler and inspector with approximately 50, 000 such
jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined in the Act, since January 30, 2015. (Tr. 31, Finding
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 151-153). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On August 25, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 13. This case is now
ready for decision.
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. §§
423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the
plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light
of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is
reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,