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Weathington v. Berryhill

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

February 28, 2019

LORI WEATHINGTON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Lori Weathington (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title 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. 11.[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 April 4, 2016. (Tr. 14). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to COPD, depression, hernia, kidney stones, and emphysema. (Tr. 236). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 1, 2009. (Tr. 59). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 87-112).

         After Plaintiff's application was denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on this application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 28-55). Thereafter, on May 12, 2017, the SSA held an administrative hearing on Plaintiff's application in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Michael Joe Hamby. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jim Spragins testified at this hearing. Id.

         On August 18, 2017, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 15-23). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since April 4, 2016, her application date. (Tr. 16, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: COPD; lumbar degenerative disc disease; history of ovarian cyst; history of recurrent non-obstructive kidney stones; “tiny” fat containing ventral hernia; and GERD. (Tr. 16-17, Finding 2). Despite being severe, the ALJ also 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. 18, Finding 3).

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had a limited education but was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 22, Finding 7). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was forty-two (42) years old, which is defined as a “younger individual” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI). (Tr. 22, Finding 6).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 18-21, Finding 4). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except occasional exposure to dust, fumes, smoke, or chemicals; and avoid temperature extremes of cold, wetness, and humidity.

Id.

         The ALJ determined Plaintiff had no Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 21-22, Finding 5). The ALJ, however, found Plaintiff did retain the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 22, Finding 9). In making this determination, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform work as a Cashier II (light, unskilled) with approximately two million such jobs in the nation and Price Marker (light, unskilled) with approximately 496, 000 such jobs in the nation. Id. 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 April 4, 2016 (application date) through August 18, 2017 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 23, Finding 10).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ unfavorable disability determination. On March 15, 2018, th Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-6). On May 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on June 22, 2018. ECF No. 11. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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