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Hulsey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

January 3, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Plaintiff, Ralph E. Hulsey, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the provisions of Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). In this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his applications for SSI and DIB on January 29, 2015, due to coronary artery disease and triple bypass surgery. (ECF No. 8, pp. 13, 164). Plaintiff initially alleged an onset date of January 21, 2014. (Id.). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to April 13, 2013. (Id., pp. 13, 51). His claims were denied initially on April 3, 2015, and upon reconsideration on July 17, 2015. (Id., pp. 13, 92, 96). An administrative hearing was held on January 21, 2016, before the Hon. Harold D. Davis. (Id., p. 26). Plaintiff appeared in person and was represented by counsel, Davis Moody. (Id.). Vocational Expert Monte Lumpkin also testified at the hearing. (Id.).

         By written decision dated August 25, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff's hypertension, coronary artery disease, and obesity to be severe, but found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments. (Id., p. 16). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b). (Id.).

         With the assistance of a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ then determined Plaintiff would be unable to perform any past relevant work (Id., p. 19); however, the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform the requirements of the representative occupations of: Shipping Checker (DOT No. 222.687-030), with 15, 596 jobs in the national economy; Power Screwdriver Operator (DOT No. 699.685-026), with 53, 015 jobs in the national economy; or, Can Filling and Closing Machine Tender (DOT No. 529.685-282), with 25, 192 jobs in the national economy. (Id., p. 20). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not been disabled under the definition of the Act from April 13, 2013, through the date of his decision. (Id.).

         On September 6, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Id., pp. 1-6). Plaintiff then filed this action. (ECF No. 1). This matter is before the undersigned for report and recommendation. Both parties have filed appeal briefs. (ECF Nos. 11, 12). The case is ready for decision.

         II. Relevant Evidence

         The undersigned has conducted a thorough review of the entire record in this case. The complete sets of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that he was 53 years old and had a 12th grade education. (ECF No. 8, pp. 32-33). Plaintiff testified that his last job was with Cloyes Gear Company, and that job ended because he really could not do it. (Id., p. 34). Plaintiff testified he worked there for two and a half months running a turning bar machine, but he was still in his preliminary 90-day period and was missing too much time. (Id., pp. 34-35). Plaintiff reported that he had worked for Walmart as a dock worker unloading trucks for 12 years; he left because his work was deteriorating, and he had been written up and terminated. (Id., pp. 35-36).

         Plaintiff testified that he had a lot of pain in his hands, feet, ankles, and chest, and that he had swelling and angina. (Id., p. 36). The last time he had been in the hospital was in 2012 or 2013. (Id., p. 39). Plaintiff stated that he did not cook, clean, mow the lawn, or go to the grocery store. (Id., p. 46). He could walk a quarter of a mile with rest periods, but he could not make it a full mile. (Id., p. 47). When he tried to drive he had pain in his legs and hands, as well as in his back, and this prevented him from driving more than 10 miles. (Id., pp. 53-54). He only drove every two to three months. (Id.). Plaintiff also testified that his medications made him tired and dizzy and that he had fallen twice. (Id., p. 55).

         The medical evidence of record reflects the following:

         On October 12, 2012, Plaintiff underwent left heart catheterization, selective coronary angiography, left ventriculography with left internal mammary artery injections and vein graft injections, percutaneous transluminal angioplasty and stenting of the right coronary artery with drug-eluting stent to treat his unstable angina. (Id., p. 321). Post-operatively Plaintiff was advised to limit himself to light activity for five to seven days and to avoid lifting greater than 10 pounds. (Id., p. 326).

         On January 17, 2013, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. David Churchill for a follow-up visit. (Id., p. 232). Plaintiff's chief complaints were listed as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and atrial fibrillation. (Id.). Plaintiff denied chest pain, dyspnea, dyspnea on exertion, syncope, palpitations, bilateral lower extremity edema, and lightheadedness. (Id.). Plaintiff also reported compliance with his recommended diet, exercise and medication, and that he was no longer using tobacco. (Id.). Dr. Churchill diagnosed Plaintiff with: ...

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