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Mueller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

March 18, 2019

DAVID MUELLER PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INSTRUCTIONS

         This recommended disposition has been submitted to United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         Plaintiff, David Mueller, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny his claim for supplemental security income. Both parties have submitted briefs and the case is ready for a decision.

         A court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996).

         In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993). After careful review of the pleadings and evidence in this case, I find the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and recommend the Complaint be DISMISSED.

         Plaintiff is forty-six years old. (Tr. 62.) He earned a general equivalence degree (id.) and has past relevant work as an auto mechanic, hand packager, kitchen assistant, and fast food worker. (Tr. 27, 62.)

         The ALJ[1] found Mr. Mueller had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 3, 2016, the application date. (Tr. 13.) He has “severe” impairments in the form of “disorder of the back, obstructive sleep apnea disorder, anxiety, personality disorder and coronary artery disease.” (Id.) The ALJ further found Mr. Mueller did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[2] (Tr. 14-15.)

         The ALJ determined Mr. Mueller had the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of sedentary work given his mental and physical impairments. (Tr. 15.) The ALJ determined Mr. Mueller could no longer perform his past relevant work, so the ALJ utilized the services of a vocational expert (VE) to determine if jobs existed that Plaintiff could perform despite his impairments. (Tr. 27-29.) Based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ determined Mr. Mueller could perform the jobs of ampoule sealer, compact assembler, and table worker despite his impairments. (Tr. 28.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Mr. Mueller was not disabled. (Tr. 29.)

         The Appeals Council received additional evidence and denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making his decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3.) Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint initiating this appeal. (Doc. No. 2.)

         In support of his Complaint, Plaintiff says the ALJ erred by relying on the opinion of the vocational expert (VE). (Doc. No. 11 at 6-15.) He argues that the VE did not adequately prove how she determined there were adequate numbers of ampoule sealer, compact assembler, and table worker jobs available in the economy. In other words, Plaintiff says the VE must have a rational basis for testifying that a certain number of jobs exist in the national economy. Plaintiff argues:

Given the vocational expert's response there was no evidence to support the numbers of jobs identified by the expert. It was mere speculation, based on the unfounded assumption that if there are a certain number of jobs in a particular category, some of which are unskilled, some of which are semi-skilled, and some of which are skilled, there are equal numbers of the jobs in that category that are unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled. The objection was that there was no ...

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