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Frederiksen v. Berryhill

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

February 12, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Plaintiff, Nicholas C. Frederiksen, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claim for supplemental security income (SSI) under the provisions of Title XVI of the Social Security Act (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).

         Plaintiff protectively filed his current application for SSI on August 14, 2015, alleging an inability to work since August 14, 2015, [2] due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), histrionic personality disorder (HPD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), depression, and back issues. (Tr. 115, 129). An administrative hearing was held on August 1, 2016, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 72-114). Victoria Bland, Plaintiff's aunt, also appeared and testified. (Tr. 99-102).

         By written decision dated February 1, 2017, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative disk disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/attention deficit disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, unspecified anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, unspecified personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. (Tr. 54). However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairment did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 54-56). The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c), except for the following:

[Plaintiff] can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs but can never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds. He can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. Furthermore, he must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including no driving as a part of work. The claimant can perform work where interpersonal contact is routine but superficial, the complexity of tasks is learned by experience, with several variables and use of judgment within limits and the supervision required is little for routine tasks but detailed for nonroutine tasks. However, he can have no contact with the public.

(Tr. 56-57). With the help of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work, but found that there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform at the medium level, such as a machine packager and a hand packager. (Tr. 64). The VE also explained that Plaintiff could perform the occupations of a hotel/motel housekeeper and a routing clerk at the unskilled, light exertional level, and the occupations of a document preparer and an addresser at the unskilled, sedentary exertional level. (Tr. 65). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 14, 2015, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 65).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which after considering additional evidence submitted by Plaintiff, denied that request on December 5, 2017.[3] (Tr. 1-7). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 7). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is now ready for decision. (Docs. 15, 16).

         This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome, or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other words, if after reviewing the record it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         The Court has reviewed the entire transcript and the parties' briefs. For the reasons stated in the ALJ's well-reasoned opinion and the Government's brief, the Court finds Plaintiff's arguments on appeal to be without merit and finds that the record as a whole reflects substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision is hereby summarily affirmed and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice. See Sledge v. Astrue, No. 08-0089, 2008 WL 4816675 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 31, 2008) (summarily affirming ALJ's denial of disability benefits), aff'd, 364 Fed.Appx. 307 (8th Cir. 2010).




[1] Nancy A. Berryhill, has been appointed to serve as acting Commissioner of Social Security, and is substituted as Defendant, pursuant to Rule 25(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

[2] At the August 1, 2016, hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date from June 17, 2005, to August ...

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