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Utley v. Colvin

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

February 3, 2015

TINA C. UTLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

H. BRENT BRENNENSTUHL, Magistrate Judge.

BACKGROUND

Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Tina C. Utley ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 12) and Defendant (DN 18) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. Additionally, Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment (DN 12) and Defendant has filed a response (DN 18).

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 10). By Order entered August 27, 2014 (DN 11), 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

On August 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (Tr. 140-146, 147-153). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on April 11, 2011, as a result of Asthma (Tr. 182). Administrative Law Judge Edward F. Sweeney ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on December 12, 2012, in Paducah, Kentucky (Tr. 25). Plaintiff was present and represented by attorney Nathan Craig (Tr. 25). Also present and testifying was James Adams, a vocational expert (Tr. 25).

In a decision dated January 10, 2013, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 11-20). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015 (Tr. 13). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 11, 2011, the alleged onset date (Tr. 13). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 13). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's alleged carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic dry eyes, difficulty reading, and difficulty writing are "non-severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 14). 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. 14).

At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of sedentary work because she must avoid concentrated exposure to environmental irritants such as fumes, dusts, and odors; and she must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat or cold (Tr. 14). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work as a chicken farm laborer (medium exertional level), a nurse's aide (medium exertional level), and a seamstress (light exertional level) (Tr. 18).

The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 18-19). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 18-19). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from April 11, 2011 through January 10, 2013, the date of the decision (Tr. 19-20).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 7). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3).

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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