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Heath v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

February 6, 2019

PAULA JUNE HEATH PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Paula June Heath (“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. 8.[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 DIB application on March 25, 2015. (Tr. 24). In her application, she alleges being disabled due to degenerative joint disease and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 187). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of July 1, 2011. (Tr. 24). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 78-98).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application. (Tr. 109-110). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 23, 2017 in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Tr. 40-77). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, David Graham. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mr. Thomas testified at this hearing. Id.

         After this hearing, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on her disability application. (Tr. 21-35). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2015. (Tr. 26, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff did not engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) during the period from her alleged onset date of July 1, 2011 through her date last insured of December 31, 2015. (Tr. 26, Finding 2). The ALJ determined that, through her date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe combination of impairments: degenerative joint disease of the bilateral hips, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, status post hysterectomy due to ovarian cancer, and mood disorder. (Tr. 26-27, 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. 27-29, Finding 4).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 34, Finding 8). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was fifty-two (52) years old, which is defined as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008), on her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 34, Finding 7).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 29-33, 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, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). Therefore, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk for 6 hours during an 8-hour workday, and sit intermittently during the remaining time. However, claimant can use her upper extremities frequently, but not constantly, to reach, handle, finger and feel; can only occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl, and kneel; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can only occasionally climb stairs and ramps; is unable to balance on narrow or moving surfaces, but is able to balance occasionally on level surfaces; cannot work in proximity to unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; can use foot controls only occasionally; can understand, remember and carry out only short, simple instructions; can perform only simple, routine tasks with no fast-paced, high quota production work; can make only simple work related decisions; can adapt to few, if any, workplace changes, and can tolerate only occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and the general public.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”); and determined, through her date last insured, Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her PRW. (Tr. 33, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 34-35, 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 housekeeper/cleaner with approximately 306, 000 such jobs nationally and as a bottling line attendant with approximately 57, 000 such jobs nationally. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time from July 1, 2011 (alleged onset date) through December 31, 2015 (her date last insured). (Tr. 35, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On December 11, 2017, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 5-8). On January 29, 2018, 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. 8, 13-14. This case is now ready for determination.

         2.Applicable ...


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