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Hawkins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division

July 8, 2019

EDDIE LEE HAWKINS, PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          JOE J. VOLPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INSTRUCTIONS

         This recommended disposition has been submitted to Chief United States District Judge Brian S. Miller. The parties may file specific objections to these findings and recommendations and must provide the factual or legal basis for each objection. The objections must be filed with the Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. A copy must be served on the opposing party. The district judge, even in the absence of objections, may reject these proposed findings and recommendations in whole or in part.

         RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         Plaintiff, Eddie Hawkins, has appealed the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits. Both parties have submitted appeal briefs and the case is now ready for a decision.

         A court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v. Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996). In assessing the substantiality of the evidence, courts must consider evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it; a court may not, however, reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision. Sultan v. Barnhart, 368 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir. 1993).

         The history of the administrative proceedings and the statement of facts relevant to this decision are contained in the respective briefs and are not in serious dispute. Therefore, they will not be repeated in this opinion except as necessary. After careful consideration of the record as a whole, I find the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

         Plaintiff was fifty-eight at the time of the administrative hearing. (Tr. 41.) He testified that he went as far as the twelfth grade in school. (Id.) Mr. Hawkins has past relevant work as a material handler. (Tr. 22.) The Administrative Law Judge[1] (ALJ) found Mr. Hawkins has a combination of “severe” impairments, (Tr. 15), but did not have an impairment or combination of impairments meeting or equaling an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15-18.)

         The ALJ determined Mr. Hawkins had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a reduced range of medium work. (Tr. 18.) Given this RFC, Mr. Hawkins is no longer able to perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 22.) Therefore, the ALJ employed the services of a vocational expert to determine whether jobs existed that Mr. Hawkins could perform despite his impairments. (Tr. 41-48.) Based in part on the vocational expert testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs of driver helper sales route and hand packer. (Tr. 23.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Mr. Hawkins was not disabled. (Tr. 23.)

         In support of his Complaint, Mr. Hawkins argues that, while giving great weight to the opinions of Gary P. Nunn, Sr., M.D., the ALJ failed to fully incorporate all of Dr. Nunn's findings when determining his RFC. (Doc. No. 13 at 7-9.) Specifically, Plaintiff says the ALJ failed to consider Dr. Nunn's limitation on standing and walking without interruption, balancing, driving, and environmental restrictions.

         With regard to Dr. Nunn, the ALJ stated:

As for the opinion evidence, the undersigned gives great weight to the opinion of consultative examiner, [Gary P. Nunn, Sr., M.D.]. Dr. Nunn opined that the claimant could lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 20 pounds frequently. He could stand and walk for 3 hours and sit for 8 hours during the workday. He also opined that the claimant did not need a cane for ambulation. Dr. Nunn did not report that the claimant was using a cane at the examination and further opined and that the claimant had no problems using his hands or feet. This opinion is consistent with Dr. Nunn's objective examination, which had normal findings, and with other evidence in the record including mild findings on diagnostic tests, and physical exams. Given the claimant's unremarkable physical exams, the undersigned further found that the claimant could stand and walk for six hours in a workday. As such, the undersigned assigns this opinion great weight.

(Tr. 22 (citation omitted).)

         In carefully reviewing the ALJ's assessment of this evidence, I find no error. An ALJ is not required to adopt all of a doctor's findings when assigning that doctor's opinion great weight. Furthermore, the ALJ stated, “Given the claimant's unremarkable physical exams, the undersigned further found that the claimant could stand and walk for six hours in a workday.” (Id.) So, the ALJ gave specific consideration to the medical records and diagnostic tests and concluded Plaintiff could do more than what Dr. Nunn found. While this paragraph might ...


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