United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lynn Jester, (“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 Disability
Income Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Title II and XVI of the Act.
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. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this
memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment
in this matter.
protectively filed his application for DIB and SSI on May 26,
2015. (Tr. 10). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges
being disabled due to gout, bipolar disorder, arthritis, and
high cholesterol. (Tr. 192). These applications were denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 10).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing,
and that hearing request was granted. (Tr. 109-111).
administrative hearing was held on March 23, 2017. (Tr.
26-50). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was
represented by non-attorney representative Linn Reed.
Id. Plaintiff, and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Wilfred Roux, testified at the hearing.
Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was
fifty-four (54) years old and had an eighth grade education.
(Tr. 30, 32).
the hearings, on June 21, 2017, the ALJ entered an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's applications for
DIB and SSI. (Tr. 10-17). In this decision, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff had last met the insured status requirements of the
Act on December 31, 2014. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also
found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful
Activity (“SGA”) since his onset date of August
31, 2014. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).
determined Plaintiff had the following medically determinable
impairments: mild asthma, gout, alcohol abuse in remission,
arthritis, high cholesterol, mood disorder, and antisocial
personality traits. (Tr. 12, Finding 3). The ALJ then found
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that had significantly limited (or was expected
to significantly limit) the ability to perform basic
work-related activities for 12 consecutive mouths, and
therefore did not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments. (Tr. 12, Finding 4). 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 31, 2014
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 17, Finding 5).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 157-158). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On May 11, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 19, 20. This case is now
ready for decision.
well-established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “physical or mental impairment” as
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the
plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light
of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is
reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
brings the present appeal claiming the ALJ erred in the
assessment of Plaintiff's impairments at Step 2. ECF No.
19, Pgs. 6-16. In response, Defendant argues ...