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Godwin v. Berryhill

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

March 19, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT



         Shannon Godwin (“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 claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions of Title II of the Social Security Act (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. 13.[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 May 28, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed his application. (Tr. 10, 198). In his application, Plaintiff alleges he was disabled due to issues with his shoulder, neck, knee, right arm, and a hernia with an alleged onset date of February 16, 2012. (Tr. 198, 202). The claim was denied initially on November 6, 2015, and again upon reconsideration on April 15, 2016. (Tr. 96, 103).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 107, 124). An administrative hearing was held on December 3, 2015, in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Tr. 35). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by a non-lawyer representative, Len Reed. (Tr. 35-50). Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) David Elmore, testified at this hearing. (Id.). On the date of this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-eight (48) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20. C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (DIB) and testified he had completed the sixth grade in school. (Tr. 39).

         On May 26, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 7-26). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since February 16, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 13, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the knee, shoulder impingement, degenerative disc disease, affective disorder, and anxiety. (Tr. 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. 13-15, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated the Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15-24, 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 retained 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 work at the sedentary exertion level. He can only occasionally kneel and crouch. Nonexertionally, the claimant is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, incidental is defined as interpersonal contact requiring a limited degree of interaction such as meeting and greeting the public, answering simple questions, accepting payment, and making change; complexity of tasks can be learned by demonstration or repetition within 30 days, few variables, little judgment; supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete (20 CFR 404.1567 (a)).


         The ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 25, Finding 6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically that of an Addresser or Call Out Operator. (Tr. 26, Finding 10). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the Vocational Expert. (Tr. 25-26, Finding 10).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council's review the ALJ's unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 1, 159). On December 19, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). On February 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on March 13, 2018. ECF No. 13. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 17-19. 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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