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Durham v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Diviison, Lexington

March 24, 2015

VICTORIA DURHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons set forth herein, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her current application supplemental security income benefits in February 2009, alleging disability beginning in December 2008, due to "bad back, depression, asthma, chronic deteriorating disease and arthritis" (Tr. 407). The application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and by an Administrative Law Judge after a hearing ("ALI") (Tr. 58-105, 113-123). After Plaintiff asked the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 220), the Appeals Council remanded the case for further proceedings (Tr. 125-126). Plaintiff also filed a second application for SSI while the first application was pending. The second application was combined with the previous application and a supplemental hearing was held on July 10, 2012 (Tr. 28-57). At the hearing, Martha Goss, a vocational expert (hereinafter "VE"), testified.

At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:

Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s) must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant's impairment or impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is not disabled.

The ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 11-27). Plaintiff was 46 years old at the time she allegedly became disabled on December 31, 2008, and 49 years old at the time of the Commissioner's July 23, 2012 final decision that is now before this Court (Tr. 343). Plaintiff has a tenth grade education (Tr. 413), and previously worked as a nurse's aide, babysitter and housekeeper, although the ALJ determined that the work activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. (Tr. 18).

At Step I of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of her application for benefits (Tr. 13).

The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from status-post posterior interbody fusion with screws at L5-S1, polysubstance abuse and depression, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 13).

At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (Tr. 14). In doing so, the ALJ specifically ...


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