United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
ERIC M. GREER PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Greer, (“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
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of 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. 7. 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 on January 12,
2015. (Tr. 48). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being
disabled due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, anger issues, lumbar
spine bulging discs, disc degeneration, narrowing of spinal
column, nerve problems with numbness in arms and hands, and
chronic headaches. (Tr. 278). Plaintiff alleges an onset date
of December 3, 2014. (Tr. 48). His application was denied
initially and again upon reconsideration. Id.
requested an administrative hearing on his denied
application. (Tr. 195-196). This hearing request was granted
and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on
January 30, 2017. (Tr. 107-144). At this hearing, Plaintiff
was present and was represented by counsel, William Kirby
Mouser. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Dianne Smith testified at the hearing.
Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was forty
(40) years old and had a high school education with some
college. (Tr. 112, 114).
the hearing, on May 11, 2017, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr.
48-61). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff met
the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30,
2020. (Tr. 50, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since December 3, 2014. (Tr. 50, Finding
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine,
post-traumatic arthritis of the ankle, carpal tunnel
syndrome, morbid obesity, anxiety disorder, major depressive
disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Tr. 50,
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.
52, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 54, 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 perform a range of sedentary
work and could lift or carry 10 pounds; could occasionally
climb, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; sit for six to eight
hours in an eight-hour workday; walk one to two hours in an
eight-hour workday; frequently reach and handle with the
right dominant hand and only occasionally with the left
non-dominant hand; could not work at unrestricted heights,
ladders, or scaffolding; limited to unskilled rote activity;
could understand, follow, and remember concrete instructions;
and could have only superficial contact with supervisors,
coworkers, and the public. Id.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 59, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not capable of performing his PRW. Id.
The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 60, 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 document preparer with approximately 45, 000 such
jobs in the nation and surveillance system monitor with
approximately 15, 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 December
3, 2014 through the date of the decison. (Tr. 61, Finding
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (252-258). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-7). On June 21, 2018,
Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties
have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 12, 13. 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. ...