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Clark v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

March 19, 2019

JESSE CLARK PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Jesse Clark (“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 his 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 his DIB application on December 16, 2015. (Tr. 18). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to residuals of a crushed leg in 2005, left knee replacement in 2008, right leg joint pain, degeneration of lumbar and cervical back, nerve damage in his neck, uncontrolled hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, grain pain, and bipolar disorder and depression. (Tr. 188). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of August 27, 2015. (Tr. 18). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 71-95).

         After Plaintiff's application was denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on this application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 31-70, 105-106). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 8, 2017 in Alexandria, Louisiana. (Tr. 31-70). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Thomas Bode testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-three (43) years old, which is defined as a “younger individual” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB). (Tr. 34). Plaintiff also testified he had completed high school. (Tr. 34, 37).

         Thereafter, the ALJ entered an unfavorable disability determination on November 6, 2017. (Tr. 15-30). The ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2020. (Tr. 20, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) from August 27, 2015 (his alleged onset date) through November 9, 2017 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 26, Finding 11). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, hypertension, residuals of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status post bilateral releases, residuals of left knee replacement and crushed left leg repair, obesity, and depression. (Tr. 20, 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. 21, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 22-24, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and largely discounted them. Id. Second, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except no constant but frequently handling and fingering and only occasional interaction with others.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. (Tr. 24-25, Finding 6). The ALJ also considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 25-26, Finding 10). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id.

         Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following two occupations: (1) final assembler (sedentary, unskilled) with 53, 459 such jobs in the national economy and (2) lens inserter (sedentary, unskilled) with 83, 423 such jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 25-26, Finding 10). 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, at any time from August 27, 2015 (alleged onset date) through November 9, 2017 (ALJ's decision date). (Tr. 26, Finding 11).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. On May 23, 2018, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-3). On July 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on July 27, 2018. ECF No. 8. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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