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Roberts v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

December 18, 2019

RANDALL D. ROBERTS PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration[1] DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objections; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Randall D. Roberts (“Roberts”), applied for disability insurance benefits (Title II) on August 28, 2013, alleging disability beginning on July 1, 2011. (Tr. at 12). His date-last-insured for Title II benefits was December 31, 2014. (Tr. at 1348). After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied his application in a decision dated April 7, 2015. (Tr. at 18). The Appeals Council denied Roberts's request for review. (Tr. at 1). After Roberts filed a complaint in this Court seeking review, Judge Wilson remanded the case for further development. (Tr. at 1432-1436). During the pendency of that District Court case, Roberts filed an application for supplemental security income benefits (Title XVI). (Tr. at 1348).

         A second hearing was held on October 6, 2017. (Tr. at 1348). The ALJ denied Roberts's application in a decision dated December 19, 2017, finding that Roberts was not disabled for the relevant time-period for Title II benefits (from the alleged onset date of July 1, 2011 through the date-last-insured of December 31, 2014). (Tr. at 1348-1360). Concurrently, the ALJ determined that Roberts was disabled after December 31, 2014, for purposes of his Title XVI application. (Doc. No. 11, at 2). The Appeals Council denied Roberts's request for review of the ALJ's decision denying benefits. (Tr. at 1335, 1573). Thus, the ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. Roberts has filed a Complaint seeking judicial review from this Court.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Roberts had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of July 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014. (Tr. at 1350). At Step Two, the ALJ found that Roberts has the following severe impairments: degenerative disk disease, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. (Tr. at 1351).

         After finding that Roberts's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 1351), the ALJ determined that Roberts had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of sedentary work, except that: (1) he could only occasionally climb, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, and crouch; (2) he could only occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; (3) he is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in a setting where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; and (4) he could respond to supervision that is simple, direct, and concrete.[2] (Tr. at 1353).

         The ALJ found that, based on Roberts's RFC, he was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. (Tr. at 1358). At Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”) to find that, based on Roberts's age, education, work experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform, including work as circuit board assembler, a driver escort, and a document preparer. (Tr. at 1359).[3] Thus, the ALJ found that Roberts was not disabled from July 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014. (Tr. at 1360).

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's function on review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and whether it is based on legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a whole” requires a court to engage in a more scrutinizing analysis:

“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the Commissioner's decision; we also take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from that decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however, “merely ...

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