United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Alan Wallace (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
Administration (Commissioner) denying her claim for a period
of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (hereinafter “the Act”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). 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.
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. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
August 5, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title II
application and a Title XVI application. (Tr. 10). In his
applications, Plaintiff alleged he was disabled due damaged
nerves and ligaments in his left hand and back pain with an
alleged onset date of August 4, 2010. (Tr. 10, 226). The
claim was denied initially on October 20, 2015, and again
upon reconsideration on December 7, 2015. (Tr. 119, 132).
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his
application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 138,
155). An administrative hearing was held on March 17, 2017,
in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Tr. 25-55). At the administrative
hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by
counsel, Greg Giles. (Id.). Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Myrtle M. Johnson testified at this
hearing. (Id.). On the date of this hearing,
Plaintiff testified he was forty-nine (49) years old, which
is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.963(c) (SSI), and testified he had completed the
twelfth grade in special education classes. (Tr. 30, 32).
Plaintiff amended the onset date to December 31, 2014, at the
time of the hearing. (Tr. 29).
8, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on
Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 7-20). In this decision,
the ALJ found Plaintiff met the last insured status
requirements through December 31, 2014, which was also the
amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ
found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since December 21, 2014. (Tr.
12, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: left (non-dominant) hand injury
on August 4, 2010, status-post surgeries; back injury on July
15, 2009, status-post lumbar kyphoplasty; carpal tunnel
syndrome; and left knee arthritis. (Tr. 12-13, Finding 3).
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. 13-14, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated the Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 14-18, Finding 5).
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 light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he is able to perform
work that involves occasional climbing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; reaching and handling up to 10
pounds with the left (non-dominant) hand; and use his left
hand as an assistive device. Additionally, the claimant is
able to perform unskilled, rote activities; understand,
follow, and remember concrete instructions; tolerate
superficial contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the
public at unskilled (e.g. meet/greet, make change, do simple
instructions and directions).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and determined he was unable to perform
any of his PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff
was defined as a younger individual on the amended alleged
disability onset date, but subsequently changed age category
to closely approaching advanced age. (Tr. 18, Finding 7). The
ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy, specifically that of a counter clerk or a furniture
rental consultant. (Tr. 19, Finding 10). The ALJ based this
determination upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert.
(Tr. 19, Finding 10).
requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's
unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 191). On January
25, 2018, the Appeals Council declined to review
Plaintiff's appeal. (Tr. 1). On February 23, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties
consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 13,
2017. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF
Nos. 12-13. This case is now ready for decision.
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 ...