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Mize v. Berryhill

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

January 23, 2019

KAREN R. MIZE PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Karen R. Mize (“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 application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 7.[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 application on July 2, 2014. (Tr. 19). In her application, Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to neuropathy in her neck, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 240). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 10, 2012. (Tr. 15). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 261-276).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 138-139). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on July 21, 2015. (Tr. 38-61). Thereafter, on September 22, 2016, the ALJ held a second administrative hearing. (Tr. 66-95). This hearing was held in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Iva Nell Gibbons. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Barbara Hubbard testified at this hearing. Id.

         After this hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying her disability application. (Tr. 16-30). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 21, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August 10, 2012 (her alleged onset date). (Tr. 21, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: hypertension; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine at ¶ 2-3 and C3-4; status/post-epidural steroid injection (ESI); degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine with spondylosis at ¶ 4-5; headaches; major depression; and anxiety. (Tr. 21, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ 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. 22-23, Finding 4).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 29, Finding 8). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as an “younger individual” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) on her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 29, Finding 7).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 23-28, Finding 5). 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 sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she is limited to occasional overhead reaching. She is able to perform work involving simple tasks, simple instructions, and incidental contact with the public.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 28-29, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 29-30, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform work as a document preparer with 27, 000 such jobs in the nation and 260 such jobs in Arkansas; addresser with 11, 000 such jobs in the nation and 50 such jobs in Arkansas; and inspector/sorter/weigher jobs with 10, 000 such jobs in the nation and 120 such jobs in Arkansas. (Tr. 30). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from August 10, 2012 through the date of his decision or through December 13, 2016. (Tr. 30, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On October 6, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 5-8). On December 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 7, 12-13. This case is now ready for determination.

         2. ...


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