Little v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Barry A. Bryant on October 7, 2019. (hnc)
IN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
JEROME J. LITTLE, II
Civil No. 2:18-cv-02179
Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Jerome J. Little, II, (“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
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SS”) under Titles II and
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. 7.1 Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues
this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed his application for DIB on November 16, 2016 and SSI on June
20, 2017. (Tr. 10). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to anxiety, depression,
PTSD, ADD, back pain, neck pain, tibula tunnel in both hands, knee pain, shoulder pain, and hearing
References to the Transcript will be (Tr. ___) and refer to the document filed at ECF No. 13. These
references are to the page number of the transcript itself not the ECF page number.
loss in both ears. (Tr. 272). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of April 1, 2011, but was later amended
to August 1, 2015.
(Tr. 10, 77).
His applications were denied initially and again upon
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his denied applications. (Tr. 189-190). This
hearing request was granted and Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on February 8, 2018.
(Tr. 71-111). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel, Fred Caddell.
Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Montie Lumpkin testified at the hearing. Id. At the time
of the hearing, Plaintiff was forty-two (42) years old and had graduated high school. (Tr. 77).
Following the hearing on May 2, 2018, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying
Plaintiff’s application for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 10-22). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2016. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The
ALJ also determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since August
1, 2015, the amended onset date. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).
The ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: segmental somatic
dysfunction of the spine, right shoulder degenerative joint disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and
a major depressive disorder. (Tr. 12, 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 Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 13, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his RFC.
(Tr. 15-20, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and found his
claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC to perform a limited range of light work, with work where interpersonal contact is incidental
to the work performed; complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote with few variables and
little judgment; and requires simple, direct, concrete supervision. Id.
The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 20, Finding 6). The
ALJ determined Plaintiff was not capable of performing her PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also
determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 20, Finding 10). The ALJ based this determination upon the testimony of the
VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical
individual would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as power
screwdriver operator with approximately 51,148 such jobs in the nation, can filling and closing
machine tender with approximately 25,506 such jobs in the nation, and compression molding
machine tender with approximately 8,427 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from August 1, 2015
through the date of the decision. (Tr. 21, Finding 11).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council’s review of the ALJ’s decision. (247250). The Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-6). On October 23, 2018, Plaintiff
filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 15, 16. 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 properly
determine Plaintiff’s RFC and (2) in not having Plaintiff sent for mental consultative examination.
ECF No. 15, Pgs.9-16. In response, Defendant argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings.
ECF No. 16.
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 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 58.
ENTERED this 7th day of October 2019.
Barry A. Bryant
HON. BARRY A. BRYANT
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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