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Benson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

November 8, 2018

KIMBERLY A. BENSON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Kimberly A. Benson (“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 her applications for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and 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. 5.[1] 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 her disability applications on October 6, 2010. (Tr. 15). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges she was disabled due to bipolar disorder with psychosis and asthma. (Tr. 162). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 1, 2010. (Tr. 15). These applications were denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 84-87).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 33-83). An administrative haring was held on February 7, 2012 in El Dorado, Arkansas. Id. At this administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Denver Thornton. Id. Plaintiff, Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mr. Wallace[2], and a witness for Plaintiff testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB). (Tr. 38). Plaintiff also testified she had completed the twelfth grade in school but had gone no further. (Tr. 40).

         On April 4, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 12-27). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 17, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 1, 2010, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 17, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mood disorder NOS, personality disorder NOS, substance addiction disorder, obesity, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (Tr. 17-19, Finding 3). The ALJ, however, also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 19-21, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 21-26, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work. Additional limitations include: only occasional and no frequent crouching, kneeling, crawling, and stooping. The claimant would be limited to unskilled or the low end of semiskilled work. She can understand, remember, and follow concrete instructions; and with her medication and without illicit drug use, she can handle superficial contact such as meet, greet, make change, and give simple instructions and directions.
The law requires that a claimant under age 50 be considered for sedentary work. Therefore, in the alternative, the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of sedentary work. She can perform a job while sitting or with a sit/stand option. Additional limitations include: only occasional and no frequent crouching, kneeling, crawling, and stooping. The claimant would be limited to unskilled or the low end of semi-skilled work. She can understand, remember, and follow concrete instructions; and with her medication and without illicit drug use, she can handle superficial contact such as meet, greet, make change, and give simple instructions and directions.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined she did not retain the capacity to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 25-26, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 26-27, Finding 10). The ALJ applied the Medical-Vocational Guidelines or “Grids” in making this determination. Id. Specifically, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was “not disabled” under Rule 202.21 (full range of light work) and Rule 201.28 (full range of sedentary work) of the Grids. Id. Based upon the Grids, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from April 1, 2010 through the date of her decision or through April 4, 2012. (Tr. 27, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff's case was reversed and remanded by this Court. See Benson v. SSA, 1:13-cv-01064 (ECF No. 14). This remand was entered at the SSA's request for further administrative development. Id. The ALJ held a second administrative hearing (Tr. 470-505) and entered a second fully unfavorable decision. (Tr. 446-462). In this decision, the ALJ again found Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 446-462).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 427). On March 24, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to assume jurisdiction of this case. (Tr. 433-436). On September 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 29, 2017. ...


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