Hayes v. Social Security Administration Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Honorable Barry A. Bryant on February 9, 2017. (mll)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
QUINTAVIOUS E. HAYES
Civil No. 4:16-cv-04017
Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Quintavious Hayes (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the
Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), seeking judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying his application
for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title 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’s application for SSI was filed on October 29, 2012. (Tr. 19, 161-169). Plaintiff
alleged he was disabled due to his left arm being paralyzed due to a football injury. (Tr. 186).
Plaintiff alleged an onset date of October 11, 2011, which was amended to October 29, 2012. (Tr.
19, 161). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 73-105).
The docket numbers for this case are referenced by the designation “ECF. No.___” The transcript pages
for this case are referenced by the designation “Tr.”
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on his application and this hearing request
was granted. (Tr. 115).
Plaintiff’s administrative hearing was held on July 29, 2014. (Tr. 37-72). Plaintiff was
present and was represented by counsel, Greg Giles, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff, his grandmother
Glenda Randall, Medical Expert Dr. Charles Murphy, and Vocational Expert (“VE”) Susan Johnson
testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was twenty (20) years old and had
a high school education. (Tr. 42, 46).
On November 14, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff’s
application for SSI. (Tr. 19-32). In this decision, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in
Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) from October 29, 2012, his application date. (Tr. 21, Finding
1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of residuals of an injury of the left
brachial plexus due to a football injury of the left arm (now nonfunctional left upper extremity) and
borderline intellectual functioning. (Tr. 21, Finding 2). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff’s
impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listing of Impairments
in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 26, Finding 3).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined his RFC.
(Tr. 28-31). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and found his
claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained
the RFC for light work except an inability to reach in all directions on more than a frequent basis
with the right upper extremity; inability to reach, finger or feel with the left non-dominant upper
extremity; ability to climb ramps and stairs constantly but not climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
inability to crawl; must avoid exposure to unprotected heights, moving machinery, uneven terrain,
open bodies of water, open flames, or commercial driving; able to perform simple, routine and
repetitive tasks; can be exposed to the general public; can sustain concentration for two hours at a
time during an 8-hour workday; can tolerate change in routine work environment; and can use
judgment appropriately. (Tr. 28, Finding 4).
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 31, Finding 5). The ALJ
found Plaintiff had no PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 31, Finding 9). 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 a representative occupation such as usher with 2,800 such jobs in Arkansas and
75,000 such jobs in the nation, hostess with 750 such jobs in Arkansas and 66,000 such jobs in the
nation, and school bus monitor with 450 such jobs in Arkansas and 60,000 such jobs in the nation.
Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined
by the Act since October 29, 2012. (Tr. 32, Finding 10).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 14). See
20 C.F.R. § 404.968. The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1-4).
On February 24, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on February 25, 2016. ECF No. 7. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs.
ECF Nos. 11, 12. This case is now ready for decision.
2. Applicable Law:
In 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).
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 in the Step 5 determination. ECF
No. 11, Pgs. 3-16. In response, the Defendant argues the ALJ did not err in any of his findings. ECF
At Step Five of a disability determination, the SSA has the burden of establishing that a
claimant retains the ability to perform other work in the economy. See Snead v. Barnhart, 360 F.3d
838, 836 (8th Cir. 2004). The SSA may meet this burden by either applying the Grids or by relying
upon the testimony of a VE. See Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 621 (8th Cir. 2004) (finding the SSA’s
denial of benefits was supported by substantial evidence where the VE’s testimony was based on a
correctly-phrased hypothetical question); Patrick v. Barnhart, 323 F.3d 592, 596 (8th Cir. 2003)
(finding the SSA’s denial of benefits was supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ applied the
The SSA may not apply the Grids, and must hear testimony from a VE, where a claimant’s
RFC is significantly diminished by a nonexertional limitation. See McGeorge v. Barnhart, 321 F.3d
766, 768-769 (8th Cir. 2003). If, however, the SSA properly determines a claimant’s RFC is not
significantly diminished by a nonexertional limitation, then the SSA may rely exclusively upon the
Grids and is not required to hear the testimony from a VE. See McGeorge, 321 F.3d at 768-769.
In this matter, the ALJ heard testimony from a VE regarding Plaintiff’s ability to perform work
in the national economy. It is generally accepted that VE testimony, in response to a hypothetical
question, is substantial evidence if the hypothetical sets forth the credible impairments with reasonable
precision. See Starr v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1006 (8th Cir. 1992). It has further been established the ALJ
must only include in the hypothetical those impairments which the ALJ actually finds credible, and not
those which he rejects, assuming his findings are supported by substantial evidence. See Onstad v.
Shalala, 999 F.2d 1232 (8th Cir. 1993).
The ALJ found Plaintiff had the RFC light work except an inability to reach in all directions
on more than a frequent basis with the right upper extremity; inability to reach, finger or feel with
the left-nondominant upper extremity; ability to climb ramps and stairs constantly but not climbing
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; inability to crawl; must avoid exposure to unprotected heights, moving
machinery, uneven terrain, open bodies of water, open flames, or commercial driving; able to
perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks; can be exposed to the general public; can sustain
concentration for two hours at a time during an 8-hour workday; can tolerate change in routine work
environment; and can use judgment appropriately. (Tr. 28, Finding 4). In response to a hypothetical
question containing these limitations, the VE testified work existed in the national economy consistent
with the limitations found by the ALJ. (Tr. 57-71). The ALJ found a significant number of jobs
existed in the national economy which Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 31, Finding 9). Relying on the
VE testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the Act. (Tr. 32,
I find the ALJ's hypothetical question properly set forth those limitations the ALJ found
credible and which are supported by the evidence of record. See Haynes v. Shalala, 26 F.3d 812, 815
(8th Cir. 1994); Rappoport v. Sullivan, 942 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1991) (ALJ need only include
in his hypothetical question those impairments he accepts as true). The VE stated jobs existed in both
the national and regional economy for the vocational profile of the Plaintiff. Such testimony, based
on a hypothetical question consistent with the record, provided substantial evidence.
Plaintiff also argues he cannot perform the identified jobs, because these jobs are classified
as sedentary work not light work and do not exist in significant numbers in Arkansas. ECF No. 11,
Pg. 14. However, if a Plaintiff can perform light work, he can perform sedentary work. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.967(a). 416.967(b). Therefore, the VE did not err when he identified other jobs that Plaintiff
could perform at the sedentary level. (Tr. 32).
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 9th day of February 2017.
/s/ Barry A. Bryant
HON. BARRY A. BRYANT
U. S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?