Dodds v. Social Security Administration
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Barry A. Bryant on October 6, 2021. (lw)
IN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
EL DORADO DIVISION
Civil No. 1:21-cv-01039
Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Plaintiff, Al Dodds, 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
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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. 24.
Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB. (Tr. 17) 1. In his application, Plaintiff
alleged being disabled due to cervical disc herniation. (Tr. 200). Plaintiff alleged an onset date
of October 2, 2017.
Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and again upon
1 References to the Transcript will be (Tr. ___) and refer to the document filed at ECF No. 17, These references are
to the page number of the transcript itself not the ECF page number.
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied application, and this hearing
request was granted. (Tr. 115-169). This hearing was held on July 26, 2019. (Tr. 45-77). At
this hearing, Plaintiff was present, and represented by Jerry Davis. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”), Russell Bowden testified at the hearing. Id.
Following the administrative hearing, on October 23, 2019, the ALJ entered an unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 17-25). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act
on March 31, 2019. (Tr. 19, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) from October 2, 2017, through last date insured of March 31,
2019. (Tr. 19, Finding 2).
The ALJ then determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease
of spine with cervical radiculopathy.
(Tr. 19 Finding 3).
Despite being severe, the ALJ
determined those impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the
Listings of Impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“Listings”). (Tr. 20, Finding
The ALJ considered Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his RFC. (Tr. 2024). The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and found his claimed limitations were
not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record. Id. The ALJ
also determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform light work, except could occasionally stoop;
never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; and must avoid
exposure to hazardous moving machinery and unprotected heights. Id.
The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 24, Finding 6).
The ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing his PRW as a counselor. Id. Based
upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been disabled from October 2, 2017,
through March 31, 2019. (Tr. 24, Finding 7).
On October 15, 2020, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have
filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 19, 20. This case is now ready for decision.
It is 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. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff
must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve
consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses
the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently
engaged in a “substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that
significantly limits the claimant’s physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3)
whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment
listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work
experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his
or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant
can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)-(f). The fact finder only
considers the plaintiff’s age, education, and work experience in light of his or her RFC if the final
stage of this analysis is reached. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2003).
Plaintiff brings the present appeal claiming the ALJ erred (1) in failing to find he met a
Listing, (2) in discrediting opinions of medical sources, and (3) in the RFC determination. ECF
No. 19, Pgs. 2-15. In response, Defendant argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings. ECF
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir.
2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but it is enough that a reasonable mind
would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ's decision must be
affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d
964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). 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. Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). In other
words, 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. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
The Court has reviewed the entire transcript and the parties’ briefs. For the reasons stated
in the ALJ’s well-reasoned opinion and in the Government’s brief, the Court finds Plaintiff’s
arguments on appeal to be without merit and finds the record as a whole reflects substantial
evidence to support the ALJ’s decision. Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision is hereby summarily
affirmed and Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed with prejudice. See Sledge v. Astrue, 364 Fed.
Appx. 307 (8th Cir. 2010) (district court summarily affirmed the ALJ).
Based on the foregoing, the undersigned finds that the decision of the ALJ, denying
benefits to Plaintiff, is supported by substantial evidence, and should be affirmed. A judgment
incorporating these findings will be entered pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52 and
ENTERED this 6th day of October 2021.
Barry A. Bryant
HON. BARRY A. BRYANT
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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