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Hicks v. Saul

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

October 16, 2019

TIMOTHY EDWARD HICKS PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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

         Timothy Edward Hicks, (“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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title 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 application for SSI on June 13, 2016. (Tr. 16). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to Asperger's Syndrome and dermatitis. (Tr. 170). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of June 9, 2004. Id. His application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 16).

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application. (Tr. 98-102). This hearing request was granted and Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on May 23, 2018. (Tr. 28-57). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles. Id. Plaintiff, his mother Pam Peters, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Wilfred Roux testified at the hearing. Id. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was twenty (20) years old and had graduated high school. (Tr. 33-34).

         Following the hearing on August 1, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 16-23). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since June 13, 2016. (Tr. 18, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity and Asperger's Syndrome. (Tr. 18, Finding 2). 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, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 19-22, Finding 4). 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 sedentary work, except limited to work that required only occasional lifting or carrying of ten pounds; frequent lifting or carrying of less than ten pounds; pushing and pulling as much as lifting or carrying; sitting six hours in an eight hour workday; standing and walking two hours in an eight hour workday; occasionally climb ramps and stair, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; avoid concentrated exposure to hazards including unprotected heights and dangerous machinery, humidity, wetness, concentrated exposure to dust, odors, fume and pulmonary irritants, and concentrated exposure to extreme cold; and limited to work involving only simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, requiring simple work-related decisions and only interpersonal contact that was incidental to the work. Id.

         The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 22, Finding 5). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had no PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 22, Finding 9). 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 final assembler with approximately 217, 500 such jobs in the nation, surveillance system monitor with approximately 113, 200 such jobs in the nation, and address clerk with approximately 81, 300 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, since June 13, 2016. (Tr. 23, Finding 10).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's decision. (12). The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On February 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 15. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         It is 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. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         To 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. §§ 404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only considers the plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her RFC if the final stage of this analysis is reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).

         3. ...


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