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Dean v. Berryhill

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

November 7, 2018

JAMES K. DEAN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         James K. Dean (“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 (“SSI”) under Title 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. 7. 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 disability application on February 2, 2013. (Tr. 20). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a head injury, Hepatitis C, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 200). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of February 2, 2013. (Tr. 20). His application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 73-104).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application. (Tr. 116-117). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on September 15, 2016 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 36-62). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Elizabeth Clem testified at this hearing. Id.

         On September 28, 2016, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability application. (Tr. 20-33). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 2, 2013, his application date. (Tr. 22, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: history of a closed head injury with fractures, seizure disorder, headaches, history of right knee surgery for torn ligaments, hepatitis, an anti-social personality disorder, mood disorder, and a history of substance abuse, in remission. (Tr. 22-23, Finding 2). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that 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. 23-24, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 24-30, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff' subjective complaints and found they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following RFC:

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 416.967(b) except the claimant is limited to occasional climbing, stooping, crouching, crawling, and kneeling. The claimant should not climb ladders, scaffolds, or work at unprotected heights because of balance issues. The claimant should not operate motor vehicles or machinery, such as cars, forklifts, or buses. The claimant can lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant can sit, stand, and/or walk for up to six hours in an eight-hour workday. The claimant is limited to unskilled, rote work activities. The claimant has limited reading and writing abilities because of his educational level. The claimant can understand, follow, and remember concrete instructions, such as unskilled or rote work. He can tolerate superficial contact wit the public, coworkers, and supervisors. The claimant should have very limited contact with the public. The claimant can perform tasks with coworkers that involve very little interaction. The claimant is able to meet/greet and take simple instructions and/or directions from supervisors and coworkers.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 29-30, Finding 5). Considering his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not retain the capacity to perform his PRW. Id. The ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 30-31, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id.

         Specifically, the VE testified Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform work as a cleaner with 225, 000 such jobs nationally and 2, 000 such jobs in Arkansas and as a hand packer with 320, 000 such jobs nationally and 2, 900 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability (as defined by the Act) from August 2, 2013 (application date) through the date of the ALJ's decision or through September 28, 2016 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 31, Finding 10).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On August 29, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On October 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 7, 16-17. This case is now ready for determination.

         2. Ap ...


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