United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
JEROME J. LITTLE, II PLAINTIFF
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
J. Little, II, (“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. 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 November 16,
2016 and SSI on June 20, 2017. (Tr. 10). In these
applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to
anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD, back pain, neck pain, tibula
tunnel in both hands, knee pain, shoulder pain, and hearing
loss in both ears. (Tr. 272). Plaintiff alleges an onset date
of April 1, 2011, but was later amended to August 1, 2015.
(Tr. 10, 77). His applications were denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. Id.
requested an administrative hearing on his denied
applications. (Tr. 189-190). This hearing request was granted
and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on
February 8, 2018. (Tr. 71-111). At this hearing, Plaintiff
was present and was represented by counsel, Fred Caddell.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Montie Lumpkin testified at the hearing.
Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was
forty-two (42) years old and had graduated high school. (Tr.
the hearing on May 2, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI.
(Tr. 10-22). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through March
31, 2016. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined
Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since August 1, 2015, the amended onset
date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).
found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
segmental somatic dysfunction of the spine, right shoulder
degenerative joint disease, post-traumatic stress disorder
and a major depressive disorder. (Tr. 12, 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
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 15-20, 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 limited range of
light work, with work where interpersonal contact is
incidental to the work performed; complexity of tasks is
learned and performed by rote with few variables and little
judgment; and requires simple, direct, concrete supervision.
then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 20, 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. 20, 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 power screwdriver operator with approximately 51, 148
such jobs in the nation, can filling and closing machine
tender with approximately 25, 506 such jobs in the nation,
and compression molding machine tender with approximately 8,
427 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 August 1, 2015
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 21, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the
ALJ's decision. (247-250). The Appeals Council denied
this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On October 23, 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 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. ...