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Bryant v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

March 28, 2014

CHARLOTTE BRYANT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Charlotte Bryant ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 15) and Defendant (DN 18) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 11). By Order entered September 12, 2013 (DN 12), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 27, 2010 (Tr. 47). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on November 19, 2009, as a result of osteoporosis, arthritis, a back fracture, and depression (Tr. 47, 218-219). Administrative Law Judge Robin Palenske ("ALJ") conducted a video hearing from Atlanta, Georgia, on June 7, 2011 (Tr. 47, 77). Plaintiff appeared in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and represented by attorney M. Gail Wilson (Tr. 47, 77). Also present and testifying was Christopher Rymond as a vocational expert (Tr. 47, 75).

In a decision dated November 22, 2011, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014 (Tr. 49). The ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 49-56). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 19, 2009, the alleged onset date (Tr. 49). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's lumbar spine disorder, cervical spine disorder, and osteopenia are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 49). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's hyperthyroidism is a "non-severe" impairment within the meaning of the regulations because the condition is treated with medication and is stable (Tr. 49). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 49).

At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of light work because she is able to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; walk and stand for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday; sit for 2 hours total out of an 8 hour workday; but she can only occasionally stoop, crouch, and crawl; she is limited to occasionally climbing stairs and ramps; she cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she must avoid concentrated exposure to cold temperature extremes and work place hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights; additionally, she requires the option to sit or stand as needed and the option to change positions every 30 minutes; and, finally, she is limited to occasionally reaching overhead with the non-dominant upper extremity (Tr. 49-50). After considering the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a general office clerk (light, unskilled) because this work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (Tr. 54).

Alternatively, the ALJ considered whether there are other jobs that exist in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform in light of her residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience (Tr. 54-56). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 54-56). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 19, 2009 through the date of the decision, November 22, 2011 (Tr. 56).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 38-41). In support of her request, Plaintiff submitted medical records dated January 16, 2012 to February 27, 2012, from El-Nagger O. Amr, M.D., and medical records dated December 6, 2011 to February 8, 2012 from the Taylor Regional Hospital (Tr. 2, 5, 18-34). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff''s request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4). Notably, the Appeals Council looked at the additional medical records but concluded they are not material to Plaintiff's claim of disability through November 22, 2011, because the information is about a later time (Tr. 2).

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term "disability" is defined as an

[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton , 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. ...


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