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Price v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 9, 2015

DEBORAH JEAN PRICE, 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 pro se complaint (DN 1) of Deborah Jean Price ("Plaintiff") seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C.sect; 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 12) and Defendant (DN 16) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. Additionally, Plaintiff has submitted additional medical records and a reply memorandum in support of her position (DN 14, 15, 17, 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 11). By Order entered February 11, 2014 (DN 10), 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 September 4, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (Tr. 10, 206-209, 210-215, 224). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on December 6, 2010 as a result of coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and seasonal allergies (Tr. 10, 206, 210, 229-230). Administrative Law Judge William C. Zuber ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on June 19, 2013, in Louisville, Kentucky (Tr. 10, 25-27). Plaintiff was present and represented by attorney Greg Marks (Tr. 10, 25-27). Also present and testifying was Robert G. Piper, an impartial vocational expert (Tr. 10, 25-27).

In a decision dated July 5, 2013, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 10-21). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's insured status expires on December 31, 2015 (Tr. 12). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 6, 2010, the alleged onset date (Tr. 12). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease, coronary artery disease and hypertension, obesity, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"), fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, cluster B traits, and alcohol and cannabis abuse are "severe" impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 12). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's ocular hypertension is a "non-severe" impairment within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 12-13). 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. 13-15).

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 should avoid exposure to dust, fumes, gas, and odors; she is limited to simple, unskilled, routine work, that is not fast paced or quota driven; she is limited to casual, non-confrontational contact with coworkers and supervisors; she should not have contact with the general public; any changes in the work environment and work routine should be rare and gradually introduced; and she is capable of sustaining concentration, persistence and pace for two hour periods (Tr. 15). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work because it is considered semi-skilled and she is limited to unskilled work (Tr. 19).

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. 19-20). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 19-20). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability, " as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 6, 2010 through July 5, 2013, the date of the decision (Tr. 20-21).

Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 6). 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. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See "Evaluation of disability in general, " 20 C.F.R.§§ 404.1520, ...


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