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Harris v. Berryhill

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

June 26, 2019

LAWRENCE O. HARRIS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

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

         Lawrence O. Harris (“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 applications for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be AFFIRMED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed his disability applications on January 7, 2016. (Tr. 15). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and hearing voices. (Tr. 272). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of March 31, 2015. (Tr. 15). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 52-90).

         Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on August 16, 2017 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 52-90). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Don Chaney. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Diane Smith testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was fifty-eight (58) years old, which is defined as a “person of advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(e) (2008) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(e) (2008). (Tr. 57). As for his education, Plaintiff testified he had graduated from high school. (Tr. 58).

         On March 26, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's disability applications. (Tr. 12-26). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2020. (Tr. 18, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since March 31, 2015, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 18, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: schizophrenia, anxiety, and affective disorders. (Tr. 18, 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. 18-20, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 20-24, 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 the following:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) lifting up to 50 pounds occasionally 25 pounds frequently; sitting six to eight hours; standing and walking six to eight hours; unskilled rote activities; understand, remember, and follow concrete instructions; superficial contact with supervisors and coworkers; no work with the public.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 24, Finding 6). Based upon his work experience and his RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his PRW. Id. The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 24-25). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon this testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform work as a skin lifter (poultry) (unskilled) with 33, 000 such jobs in the national economy and machine packager (unskilled) with 34, 000 such jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 25). Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from March 31, 2015 through the date of his decision or through March 26, 2018. (Tr. 25, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. On August 22, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On October 10, 2018, Plaintiff file the current appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 11-12. 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) (2010); 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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