United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky at Louisville
DAVE WHALIN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Cassandra Swayzer-Bradleigh has filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that denied her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB). Swayzer-Bradleigh applied for DIB on July 6, 2011, alleging that she was disabled as of Dec. 8, 2010, due to degenerative disk disease of her cervical and lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the left ankle, residuals of breast cancer treatment and Fuch's dystrophy (Tr. 150, 197-208). The Commissioner denied Swayzer-Bradleigh's application on initial consideration (Tr. 101) and on reconsideration (Tr. 102). Swayzer-Bradleigh requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) (Tr. 123).
ALJ William Zuber conducted a hearing in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 6, 2013 (Tr. 27-84). Swayzer-Bradleigh attended with her attorney, Joseph Elder, III (Tr. 27). Swayzer-Bradleigh and vocational expert (VE) Gail Franklin testified at the hearing (Tr. 32-77, 78-84). Following the conclusion of the hearing, ALJ Zuber entered a hearing decision on July 12, 2013, that found Swayzer-Bradleigh is not disabled for the purposes of the Social Security Act (Tr. 13-21).
In his adverse decision, ALJ Zuber made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through Dec. 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since Dec. 8, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571, et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Fuch's dystrophy, degenerative disk disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the left ankle and a history of breast surgery (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) with only the occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, and occasional stooping, crouching, crawling and kneeling. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds and must have no exposure to dangerous machinery or unpredicted heights and wetness. The claimant can perform no more than frequent use of the hands and no more than frequent use of foot controls. The claimant would also have the option to sit/stand every 30-45 minutes. The claimant would be capable of no more than frequent fine visual acuity.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a survey worker/clerk, broadcaster, and telemarketer. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from Dec. 8, 2010, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f)).
Swayzer-Bradleigh sought review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 8-9). The Appeals Council denied her request for review, finding no reason under the Rules to review ALJ Zuber's decision (Tr. 1-5). The present lawsuit followed.
The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process.
Disability is defined by law as being the inability to do 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 12 months. See, 20 CFR §§ 404.1505, 416.905(a). To determine whether a claimant for DIB or SSI benefits satisfies such definition, a 5-step evaluation process has been developed. 20 CFR §§ 404.1520, 916.920(a). At step 1, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, the Commissioner will ...