United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
James Livsey (“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 decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
denying his application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.
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. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
August 11, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed his
application. (Tr. 253). In his application, Plaintiff alleges
he was disabled due to flattened and compressed spine in
neck, depression, scoliosis, and 30% of use in left hand with
an alleged onset date of January 31, 2014. (Tr. 282, 286).
The claim was denied initially on September 22, 2014, and
again upon reconsideration on January 14, 2015. (Tr. 187,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his
application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 200).
An administrative hearing was held on May 26, 2016, in
Texarkana, Arkansas with the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) holding the hearing remotely from
McAlester, Oklahoma. (Tr. 95). At the administrative hearing,
Plaintiff was present and was represented by a non-attorney
representative, Stanley Brummal. (Tr. 93-128). Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Melissa Brassfield
testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of this
hearing, Plaintiff testified his highest level of education
was a high school diploma. (Tr. 99).
August 17, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision on
Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 45-51). In this decision,
the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
of the Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 47, Finding 1).
The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial
Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since January 31, 2014,
his alleged onset date. (Tr. 47, Finding 2). The ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
left shoulder sprain, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, thoracic outlet syndrome, degenerative disc disease of
the cervical spine, status-post discectomy and fusion,
affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. (Tr. 47-48, Finding
3). The ALJ, however, 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. 48, Finding 4).
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 49-52, Finding 5).
First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined they were not entirely credible.
Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC for the following:
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 404.1567(a) and 416.967(b) with only occasional pushing,
pulling, and overhead reaching with his left arm; is limited
to unskilled work (where tasks are no more complex than those
learned and performed by rote, with few variables and little
judgement); his supervision must be simple, direct and
concrete and non-critical; interpersonal contact with
supervisors and co-workers must be incidental to the work
performed, e.g., assembly work; he must have normal, regular
work breaks and only occasional workplace changes.
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”) and determined he was incapable of
performing any of his past relevant work. (Tr. 52, Finding
6). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff retained the
capacity to perform other work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy, specifically that of a
conveyor line bakery worker or a bottling attendant. (Tr.
52-53, Finding 10). The ALJ found Plaintiff was 35 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual under the Act. (Tr.
52, Finding 7). The ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not been
under disability under the Act from January 31, 2014, through
the date of his decision. (Tr. 53, Finding 11).
requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
unfavorable disability determination. (Tr. 1, 250). On March
17, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the
ALJ's disability determination. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff
filed the present appeal on September 14, 2017. ECF No. 1.
The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on
September 15, 2017. ECF No. 5. Both Parties have filed appeal
briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 14. This case is now ready for decision.
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) (2006); 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 draw two inconsistent
positions from the evidence and one of those positions
represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ
must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
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.