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Bates v. Berryhill

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

March 22, 2019

TEDDY B. BATES PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Teddy Brock Bates, (“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 her application for Disability Income 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. 5. 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 application for DIB on September 11, 2012. (Tr. 10). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to: shoulder problems, back problems, leg problems, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, panic attack with agoraphobia, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, a closed head injury, confusion, black outs, and memory loss with an alleged onset date of August 9, 2010. (Tr. 245, 255, 284, 752, 791, 819). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 10). Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing and that administrative hearing was held on March 7, 2017. (Tr. 30-65). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Shannon Muse Carroll. (Tr. 10, 30-65). Plaintiff, witness Sheila Lawrence, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was forty-nine (49) years old and had a GED. (Tr. 32).

         Following the hearing, on May 23, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 10-25). The ALJ found Plaintiff had last met the insured status requirements of the Act on September 30, 2015. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease, degenerative two shoulder surgeries and right shoulder rotator cuff tear, knee degenerative joint disease, diabetes mellitus, depression, anxiety, and organic mental impairment. (Tr. 12-15, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings:”). (Tr. 15-17, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 17-23, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to:

[L]ift 10 pounds occasionally, and to frequently lift and/or carry less than 10pounds, and to walk and stand for 2 hours in an 8-hour work day, and sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, as defined by the regulations at 20 CFR SS404. The claimant cannot climb, use ladders, ropes, scaffolds or crawl. The claimant should avoid reaching overhead and can frequently but not constantly handle and finger. The claimant can make simple work related decisions and has the ability to understand, carryout, and remember short and simple tasks and instructions. The claimant requires nonpublic work and requires minimal coworker or supervisory interaction.

Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 23, Finding 6). The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not capable of performing any of his PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 24, Finding 10). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as an order clerk with approximately 185, 000 such jobs in the nation, or a charge account clerk with approximately 180, 000 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from his onset date of August 9, 2010, through the date of this decision. (Tr. 25, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 6). The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed an appeal which was decided on June 1, 2016, by this Court. (Tr. 602-610). In that decision we found that the ALJ did not properly comply with the requirements of Polaski and failed to appropriately consider Plaintiff's subjective complaints. (Tr. 606-609). Specifically, we found the ALJ improperly focused only upon whether Plaintiff's subjective complaints were supported by his medical records and remanded the case. Id.

         A second administrative hearing was held on May 31, 2017. (Tr. 454-491). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Shannon Muse Carroll. Id. Plaintiff and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-two (52) years old, had completed the eleventh grade in school, and had a GED. (Tr. 458-459).

         Following the hearing, on December 14, 2017, the ALJ entered a partially favorable decision. (Tr. 423-442). The ALJ found Plaintiff had last met the insured status requirements of the Act on September 30, 2015. (Tr. 431, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 431, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, diabetes mellitus, right shoulder adhesive capsulitis and degenerative joint disease, obesity, history of depression and anxiety, and adjustment disorder with mixed depression and anxiety. (Tr. 431-432, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings. (Tr. 432-433, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 433-440, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were not entirely ...


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