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Meadors v. Berryhill

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

January 28, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Darin Meadors (“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 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. 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 his disability applications on March 30, 2015 (DIB) and on March 25, 2015 (SSI). (Tr. 34). In his applications, he alleges being disabled due to his ankle being broken in three places, problems with his hip, and problems with his breathing. (Tr. 216). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of January 1, 2014. (Tr. 34). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 75-118).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 140-141). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on October 26, 2016 in Alexandria, Louisiana. (Tr. 50-74). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Mary Thomason. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mark Cheers testified at this hearing. Id.

         After this hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying his disability applications. (Tr. 31-44). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2016. (Tr. 36, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) during the following periods: January 1-31, 2014. (Tr. 36, Finding 2). However, the ALJ also found that there was a continuous twelve-month period during which Plaintiff did not engage in SGA. (Tr. 36, Finding 3). Thus, the ALJ considered that period. Id.

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: post-traumatic stress to the left ankle, degenerative disc disease, residual effects of vertebral fractures, and affective disorder. (Tr. 37, Finding 4). 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. 37-39, Finding 5).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 43, Finding 9). 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) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008), on his alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 43, Finding 8).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 39-42, Finding 6). 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 sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with the exceptions listed herein. He can never operate foot controls on the left. Posturally, he can never climb ladders or scaffolds but he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance and stoop. He can never kneel, crouch, or crawl. He cannot work at unprotected heights, operate a motor vehicle, or work in extreme cold. In addition, he is not able to perform at a production rate pace but he can perform goal-oriented work. He is limited to unskilled or semi-skilled work, as defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Jobs must provide a sit/stand option, which would allow for a brief change of position for one to two minutes every thirty minutes without being off-task or away from the workstation. . . .


         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 42-43, Finding 7). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 43-44, Finding 11). 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 call-out operator (sedentary, unskilled work) with 41, 800 such jobs in the nation; polisher (sedentary, unskilled) with 73, 500 such jobs in the nation; and order clerk (sedentary, unskilled) with 165, 800 such jobs in the nation. (Tr. 43-44). Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from his application date of January 1, 2014 through the date of her decision or through February 8, 2017. (Tr. 44, Finding 12).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On January 4, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 5-8). On January 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the ...

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