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Seiler v. Berryhill

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

January 3, 2019

STEPHEN ARTHUR SEILER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Stephen Arthur Seiler (“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 a period of disability under Title II 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. 9.[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 his disability application on February 18, 2013. (Tr. 191). In his application, Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to optic nerve problems and black spots; high blood pressure; heart issues; diabetes; severe pain his neck, arms, shoulders, and back; an enlarged heart; cysts on his kidneys; severe depression; hearing problems, loss of mobility; and neuropathy. (Tr. 463). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 1, 2007. (Tr. 191). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 157-171).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application. Ultimately, Plaintiff had three administrative hearings, one on November 4, 2014 (Tr. 104-142), one on August 26, 2016 (Tr. 34-80), and one on March 9, 2017 (Tr. 81-103). Based upon the testimony taken at this hearing, the ALJ entered three unfavorable decisions. (Tr. 14-26, 188-208, 214-233). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr. 1-10). Plaintiff is now appealing the Appeals Council’s decision, and this is the current decision before the Court. ECF No. 1.

         The Appeals Council entered its decision on August 25, 2017. (Tr. 1-10). In this decision, the Appeals Council found Plaintiff met the special earnings requirements of the Act on June 1, 2007 and continued to meet them through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 6, Finding 1). The Appeals Council found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 1, 2007. (Tr. 6, Finding 2).

         The Appeals Council found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, degenerative disc disease, obesity, and bilateral hearing loss. (Tr. 6, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the Appeals Council 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. 6, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the Appeals Council evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 7, Finding 4). Specifically, the Appeals Council found Plaintiff was “limited to light work” except Plaintiff “could not discern sounds softer than conversation level.” (Tr. 7, Finding 4).

         The Appeals Council found Plaintiff was unable to perform his Past Relevant Work (“PRW”).

         (Tr. 7, Finding 6). The Appeals Council, however, found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform a significant number of jobs existing in the national economy. (Tr. 7, Finding 8). The Appeals Council based that determination upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert (“VE”) at the hearing on August 26, 2016, which supports a finding that he retains the capacity to work as a semi-conductor tester with 454,000 such jobs in the national economy (light, semi-skilled). (Tr. 6). Based upon these findings, the Appeals Council found Plaintiff was not disabled, as defined by the Act, at any time through December 31, 2012 (his date last insured). (Tr. 7, Finding 9).

         On October 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on November 15, 2017. ECF No. 9. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 17-18. This case is now ready for decision.

         2.Applicable Law:

         In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner’s decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner’s decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari,258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible ...


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