United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
May, (“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 Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and 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. 5. 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 DIB and SSI on
November 4, 2013. (Tr. 22). In these applications, Plaintiff
alleges being disabled due to a spinal cord injury. (Tr.
294). These applications were denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 22).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and that
hearing request was granted. (Tr. 186-188). Plaintiff's
administrative hearing was held on June 22, 2016. (Tr.
43-83). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff
and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Bonnie Ward
testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the
hearing, Plaintiff was thirty (30) years old and had a high
school education. (Tr. 35, 49).
29, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 22-36). In
this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements of the Act through September 30, 2017.
(Tr. 24, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had
not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since July 25, 2013. (Tr. 24, Finding 2).
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, knee degenerative joint disease,
obesity, seizure disorder, depression, anxiety, and
polysubstance abuse disorder. (Tr. 25, Finding 3). 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. 25, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 28, Finding 5).
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 but limited
to occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; occasional overhead reaching
bilaterally; avoidance of all exposure to hazards such as
open flames, unprotected heights, and dangerous moving
machinery; unskilled work, which is work that needs little or
no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the
job in a short period of time; supervision that is simple,
direct, concrete, and non-critical; interpersonal contact
with supervisors and coworkers must be incidental to the work
performed, such as assembly work; must have normal, regular
work breaks, can tolerate only occasional workplace changes;
should not be required to drive automobiles for work; and
should not be required to count change or do simple math.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 34, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not capable of performing any PRW Id.
The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 35, Finding 10). 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 inspector with approximately 220, 000 such jobs in
the nation and small product assembler with approximately
190, 000 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon
this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under
a disability as defined by the Act from July 25, 2013,
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 36, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 238). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-7). On November 1, 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. ...