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Hebert v. Saul

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

November 15, 2019

NICHOLAS HEBERT PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1] Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. ERIN L. WIEDEMANN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Nicholas Hebert, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying his claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the provisions of Title II of the Social Security Act (Act). In this judicial review, the Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. Procedural Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed his current application for DIB on December 11, 2016, alleging an inability to work since August 6, 2015, due to anxiety, depression and a personality disorder. (Tr. 112, 126). On November 28, 2017, Plaintiff voluntarily waived, in writing, the right to personally appear and testify at an administrative hearing. (Tr. 21, 103-104, 91-92).

         By written decision dated June 7, 2018, the ALJ found that during the relevant time period, Plaintiff had an impairment or combination of impairments that were severe. (Tr. 23). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder. However, after reviewing all of the evidence presented, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the Listing of Impairments found in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4. (Tr. 23). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to:

perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: he can perform work where interpersonal contact is only incidental to the work performed and where the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and little judgment. The required supervision is simple, direct and concrete.

(Tr. 25). With the help of a vocational expert, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform work as a price marker, a canning machine tender and a bottling line attendant. (Tr. 30).

         Plaintiff then requested a review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council, which after reviewing additional evidence submitted by Plaintiff, denied that request on November 5, 2018. (Tr. 1-7). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (Doc. 1). Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is before the undersigned for report and recommendation. (Docs. 11, 13).

         The Court has reviewed the entire transcript. The complete set of facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs, and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         II. Applicable Law:

         The Court reviews “the ALJ's decision to deny disability insurance benefits de novo on the record to ensure that there was no legal error and that the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.” Combs v. Berryhill, 878 F.3d 642, 645-46 (8th Cir. 2017). “Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. The Court considers “the record as a whole, reviewing both the evidence that supports the ALJ's decision and the evidence that detracts from it.” Id. The Court will not reverse an administrative decision simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion. Perkins v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 892, 897 (8th Cir. 2011). If, after reviewing the record, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the Court must affirm the ALJ's decision. Id.

         It is well established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.2001); see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Act defines “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). A Plaintiff must show that his disability, not simply his impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months.

         The Commissioner's regulations require him to apply a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Only if the final stage is reached does the fact finder consider the Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Higgins v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 504, 505 (8th Cir. 2000); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

         III. ...


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