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Adams v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

July 22, 2019

JOHNNY ADAMS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Johnny Adams (“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”) partially 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.

         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.[1] 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 DIB application on April 27, 2016 and his SSI application on August 14, 2015. (Tr. 19). In his applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a blood disorder, sleep apnea, COPD, blackouts, dizziness, numbness in his hands and feet, possible gout, swelling in his feet, and nerve problems. (Tr. 260). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 24, 2013. (Tr. 19). These applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. Id.

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 184-186). This hearing request was granted, and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January 23, 2018 in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Tr. 57-76). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) James Wallace testified at this hearing. Id.

         After this hearing, the ALJ entered a partially favorable decision on his disability applications. (Tr. 12-31). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 22, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 22, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English. (Tr. 27, Finding 8). The ALJ also determined that, prior to his established disability date, Plaintiff was a “younger individual” as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c) and 416.963(c). (Tr. 27, Finding 7).

         The ALJ determined that, since his alleged disability date of September 24, 2013, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: COPD, obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, status-post congestive heart failure, polycythemia, syncope, and obesity. (Tr. 22, Finding 3). The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's impairments prior to January 1, 2016 and after January 1, 2016. Prior to January 1, 2016, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 22-23, Finding 4). The ALJ determined that prior to January 1, 2016, Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that prior to January 1, 2016, the date the claimant became disabled, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except frequent climbing of stairs and ramps, balancing, kneeling, stooping, crouching, and crawling but no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can have no exposure to high concentrations of fumes and other pulmonary irritants, and he can have no exposure to unprotected heights or dangerous moving machinery.

Id.

         The ALJ determined that since September 24, 2013, Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 27, Finding 6). However, the ALJ also determined that prior to January 1, 2016, Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 27-28, Finding 10). Accordingly, the ALJ found that, prior to January 1, 2016, Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 30, Finding 12). As of January 1, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments met the requirements of Listing 3.02 and was disabled. (Tr. 28-30, Finding 11). Plaintiff's insured status expired the day before, on December 31, 2015. (Tr. 30, Finding 13).

         Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council. On July 24, 2018, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On August 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs and have consented to the jurisdiction of this Court. ECF Nos. 5, 13-14. This case is now ready for determination.

         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) (2006); 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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