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Blanchard v. Berryhill

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

March 1, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Shawn E. Blanchard (“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 decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying his 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. 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:

         On June 23, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed his application. (Tr. 171, 189). In his application, Plaintiff alleges he was disabled due to ADHD with an onset date of January 1, 2014. (Tr. 193). The claim was denied initially on July 24, 2014, and again upon reconsideration on March 25, 2015. (Tr. 107, 115).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 117, 132). An administrative hearing was held on December 3, 2015, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 37). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Lawrence Fitting. (Tr.37-82). Plaintiff, Vocational Expert (“VE”) Monti Lumpkin, and Plaintiff's grandfather, Elijah Burkhart, testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was twenty (20) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20. C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (SSI), and testified he had completed the ninth grade in school. (Tr. 47-49).

         On February 23, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 24-31). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 23, 2014, the initial application date. (Tr. 26, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, specific learning disorder, dysthymic disorder/persistent depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. (Tr. 26, Finding 2). The ALJ, however, 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. 26-28, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated the Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 28-30, Finding 4). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined they were only partially consistent with the evidence. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff returned the RFC for the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following nonexertional limitations: is able to perform work where interpersonal contact with coworkers and supervisors is incidental to work performed and there is no contact with the public, where the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables and little use of judgment, where the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.


         The ALJ found Plaintiff had no Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 30, Finding 5). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically that of a hand packager, conveyor feeder offbearer, power screw driver operator, can filling machine tender, toy stuffer, or tile table worker. (Tr. 32, Finding 9). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert. (Tr. 30-31, Finding 9).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff submitted additional medical evidence to the Appeals Council, none of which was considered by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 1-4, 10-20). On November 14, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). On December 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 21, 2017. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15-16. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). 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. See Haley v. Massanari,258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to ...

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