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Meredith v. Social Security Administration Commissioner

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

October 28, 2019

REBEKAH DENISE MEREDITH PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATON DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Rebekah Denise Meredith (“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 her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II 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. 8.[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 her disability application on November 14, 2016. (Tr. 12). In this application, Plaintiff alleged being disabled due to degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, sjogrens syndrome, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, neuropathy, depression/anxiety, asthma, migraine headaches, and dysphagia or schatzki's ring recurrent complications. (Tr. 255). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of November 1, 2010. (Tr. 12). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 116-146).

         After Plaintiff's application was denied, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on this application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 71-96, 147-154). On May 8, 2018, the SSA held an administrative hearing in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Tr. 71-96). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Hans Pullen. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) William Elmore testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified she was fifty (50) years old, which is classified as a “person closely approaching advanced age” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d) (2008). (Tr. 74). Plaintiff also testified she had a bachelor's degree in teaching. (Tr. 75).

         On July 9, 2018, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 9-22). The ALJ determined Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2016. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) from her alleged onset date of November 1, 2010 through her date last insured of December 31, 2016. (Tr. 14, Finding 2). The ALJ determined that, through her date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diffuse disease of the connective tissue, migraine headaches, and a mood disorder with anxiety. (Tr. 14-15, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ also 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. 15-16, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 16-20, Finding 5). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). The claimant can lift/carry no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting/carrying of up to 10 pounds. The claimant can perform activities that require a good deal of walking or standing, six hours in an eight-hour workday. The claimant can perform complex, detailed or skills tasks, involving multiple variables. She is able to exercise considerable independent judgment and requires little to no supervision.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated her Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 20-22, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following PRW: (1) teacher's aide (semiskilled, light); (2) teacher of preschool (skilled, light); (3) teacher of elementary school (skilled, light); and (4) secretary (skilled, sedentary). (Tr. 20-22, Finding 6).

         In addition to this PRW, the ALJ also determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21-22). The VE also testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) cashier II (unskilled) with 1.7 million jobs nationally and (2) sales attendant (unskilled) with 350, 000 jobs nationally. Id. Because the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW and this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability (as defined by the Act) at any time from November 1, 2010 (alleged onset date) through December 31, 2016 (date last insured). (Tr. 22, Finding 7).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ unfavorable disability determination. On October 24, 2018, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-6). On November 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 26, 2018. ECF No. 8. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Ap ...


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