United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
MICHAEL R. SMITH PLAINTIFF
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
R. Smith, (“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”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SS”) under Titles II and XVI of
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. 6. 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
December 22, 2015. (Tr. 10). In these applications, Plaintiff
alleges being disabled due to heart issues, chronic
hypertension, heart attack, fibromyalgia, fatigue, judgment
impairment from medication, torn anterior cruciate ligament,
recent back surgery, anxiety issues, obsessive compulsive
disorder, depression, and kidney problems. (Tr. 285).
Plaintiff alleges an onset date of November 4, 2011. (Tr.
243-247). His applications were denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. Id.
requested an administrative hearing on his denied
applications. (Tr. 187). This hearing request was granted and
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on July 19,
2017. (Tr. 33-69). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and
was represented by counsel, Fred Caddell. Id.
Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Alissa
Smith testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of
the hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-five (35) years old and had
graduated high school. (Tr. 38).
the hearing on April 4, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI.
(Tr. 10-21). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through March
31, 2014. (Tr. 13, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since November 4, 2011. (Tr. 13, Finding
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status
post history of cervical spine surgery, history of
fibromyalgia, alcohol use disorder, depression, and anxiety.
(Tr. 13, 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. 13, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15-19, 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 perform sedentary work, except
limited to work that required only occasional stooping,
crouching, bending, kneeling, crawling, and balancing, and
involving simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with simple,
direct, and concrete supervision, frequent contact with
coworkers and supervisors, and occasional contact with the
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 19, Finding 6). The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not capable of performing her PRW. Id.
The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 19, 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 specialist with approximately 30, 000 such
jobs in the nation, toy stufffer with approximately 14, 000
such jobs in the nation, and printed circuit board screener
with approximately 19, 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 November 4, 2011 through the date of the decision.
(Tr. 20, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (241). The Appeals Council denied this
request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On October 26, 2018, Plaintiff
filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed
appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. This case is now ready for
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. ...