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Bonet v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

October 29, 2019

STROTNEY T. BONET PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATON DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Strotney T. Bonet (“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. 10.[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 SSI application on October 26, 2015. (Tr. 12). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to back and neck problems, arthritis, and numbness in his legs. (Tr. 239). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of October 1, 2015. (Tr. 12). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 97-118).

         After Plaintiff's application was denied, he requested an administrative hearing on his application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 9-25). On March 12, 2018, the SSA held an administrative hearing in El Dorado, Arkansas. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by David Graham. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Beverly Majors testified at this hearing. Id. During this hearing, Plaintiff testified he was forty-four (44) years old, which is classified as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (Tr. 18, Finding 6). Plaintiff also testified he had a high school education and could communicate in English. (Tr. 18, Finding 7).

         On April 25, 2018, after the administrative hearing, the ALJ entered a fully unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's SSI application. (Tr. 12-20). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since October 26, 2015, his application date. (Tr. 14, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative changes with L5-S1 protrusions, cervical degenerative changes with herniation and foraminal stenosis and obesity. (Tr. 15, Finding 2). 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, Finding 3).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”). (Tr. 15-18, Finding 4). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the following RFC:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except may occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; and, occasional bilateral overhead reaching.

Id.

         The ALJ evaluated his Past Relevant Work (“PRW”) and determined Plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 5). Because he was unable to perform his PRW, the ALJ then determined whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19, Finding 9). 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) price marker (light, unskilled) with 283, 900 such job in the United States; (2) janitor (light, unskilled) with 136, 000 such jobs in the United States; and (3) table attendant (light, unskilled) with 60, 000 such jobs in the United States. Id. Because the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability (as defined by the Act) at any time since October 26, 2015 (his application date). (Tr. 19, Finding 10).

         Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ unfavorable disability determination. On October 15, 2018, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-8). On December 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on December 21, 2018. ECF No. 10. This case is now ready for decision.

         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) (2010); 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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