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Smith v. Berryhill

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

January 23, 2019

SALLIE E. SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Sallie E. Smith (“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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Robert T. Dawson referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her DIB application on March 31, 2015. (Tr. 26). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to nerve damage, headaches, vertigo, and syncope. (Tr. 288). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 14, 2014. (Tr. 26). Her application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 175-182).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 131-174). Plaintiff's hearing was held on May 26, 2016 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Donald Chaney. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Diane Smith testified at this hearing. Id.

         On September 22, 2016, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's DIB application. (Tr. 23-39). The ALJ determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2020. (Tr. 28, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since July 14, 2014, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 28, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: peripheral neuropathy, left shoulder bursitis, migraines, and depression. (Tr. 28, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that 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. 28, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 30-36, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's 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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with the following additional limitations. She can occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She must avoid hazards such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. She must avoid pulmonary irritants such as dust, odors, fumes, chemical fumes, and bleaches. She must avoid extreme heat and cold in the workplace. Mentally, she is limited to unskilled work, defined as able to understand, retain, and carry out simple instructions. She can make simple, work-related decisions. Interpersonal contacts must be incidental to the work performed; and, supervision must be simple, direct, and concrete.

(Tr. 30-36, Finding 5).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff was forty-five (45) years old, which is defined as a “younger individual” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008), on her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 37, Finding 7). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 37, Finding 8).

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 37, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 37-38, 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 marking clerk (light, unskilled) with over 51, 000 such jobs in the nation; small parts packer (light, unskilled) with over 200, 000 such jobs in the nation; table worker (sedentary, unskilled) with over 9, 300 such jobs in the nation; and cutter or paster (sedentary, unskilled) with over 5, 400 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 14, 2014 (alleged onset date) through September 22, 2016 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 38, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. (Tr. 5-8). On November 1, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. Id. On January 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this case. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12-13.

         2. Ap ...


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