United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
BRANDON L. HIXSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
recommended disposition has been submitted to United States
District Judge Susan Webber Wright. The parties may file
specific objections to these findings and recommendations and
must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection.
The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than
fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and
recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party.
The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may
reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole
or in part.
Brandon Hixson, has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny
his claim for supplemental security income. Both parties have
submitted briefs and the case is ready for a decision.
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 free of legal error.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir.
1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d
254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996).
assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must
consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may
not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely
because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite
decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th
Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th
for both sides have done admirable work on behalf of their
respective clients. But after careful review of the pleadings
and evidence in this case, I find the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and recommend
the Complaint be DISMISSED.
is young - he was only thirty years old at the time of the
most recent administrative hearing. (Tr. 41.) He completed the
eleventh grade, earned a general equivalence degree, and
attended some college on-line (id.) but has no past
relevant work. (Tr. 26.)
found Mr. Hixson had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 10, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr.
15.) He has “severe” impairments in the form of a
seizure disorder, mild neurocognitive disorder, adjustment
disorder with mixed emotional features, mood disorder not
otherwise specified, anxiety, and a history of polysubstance
abuse. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ further found Mr. Hixson did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or
equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18-20.)
determined Mr. Hixson had some environmental and mental
limitations but had the residual functional capacity to
perform work at all exertional levels. (Tr. 20-21.) As
previously stated, Mr. Hixson had no past relevant work, so
the ALJ utilized the services of a vocational expert to
determine if jobs existed that Plaintiff could perform
despite his impairments. Based on the testimony of the
vocational expert (Tr. 70-73), the ALJ determined Mr. Hixson
could perform the jobs of hand packager, circuit board
assembler/checker, mail room clerk, labeler/marker, and
compact assembler. (Tr. 27.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined
Mr. Hixson was not disabled. (Id.)
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review
of the ALJ's decision, making his decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4.) Plaintiff filed the
instant Complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2.)
support of his Complaint, Mr. Hixson argues that the ALJ
failed to develop the record by not ordering additional
consultative examinations and not developing additional
evidence from James Moneypenny, Ph.D., before discounting his
opinion. (Doc. No. 11 at 6-10.) Plaintiff bears a heavy
burden in showing the record has been inadequately developed.
He must show both a failure to develop necessary evidence and
unfairness or prejudice from that failure. Combs v.
Astrue, 243 Fed.Appx. 200, 204 (8th Cir. 2007). After
carefully considering this argument, I find Plaintiff has
does make a good point about four years having passed between
the State Agency doctors rendering their opinions and the
ALJ's opinion. However, there was ample other evidence
upon which the ALJ could rely. For example, the General
Physical Examination by Clifford Evans, M.D., noted nothing
that could be considered disabling. (Tr. 687-691.) The
ALJ's assessment of Dr. Evans's report was thorough
and proper. (Tr. 23-25.) And while Plaintiff argues none of
Plaintiff's neurologists had been asked their opinions
about Plaintiff's work restrictions, the ...