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Bryant v. Berryhill

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

February 13, 2017

DARLENE B. BRYANT PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security [1] DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's complaint seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her claim for Social Security disability benefits. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Dockets 15 and 20. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Docket 13.

         Because the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) decision was supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record and was in accord with applicable legal standards, the Court will AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.

         Plaintiff failed to prove that her left-knee impairment satisfies the medical criteria of Listing 1.02.

         The ALJ acknowledged that Plaintiff suffers from degenerative joint disease of the left knee, which restricts her to sedentary work with an option to sit/stand every 30 to 45 minutes. ALJ's decision at administrative record (AR), pp. 116 and 118.[2]

         Plaintiff claims that her left-knee impairment meets or equals the medical criteria of Listing 1.02 of Appendix 1 of the regulations.

         The ALJ found that the impairment does not satisfy the Listing: “The claimant does not satisfy the criteria of Listing 1.02 - Major dysfunction of a joint(s) due to any cause since she does not have a gross anatomical deformity or instability in her knees or ankles. She retains the ability to ambulate effectively.” ALJ's decision at AR, p. 117

          If Plaintiff shows that her impairment satisfies the clinical criteria of a Listed impairment, she is entitled to conclusive presumption of disability based on the medical evidence alone (independently of any other factor such as age, education, or prior work experience). 20 C.F.R. 404.1525(a). Because the Listing represents an automatic screening-in of an impairment as per-se disabling, Plaintiff's burden of proving that the criteria of the Listing are satisfied is strictly construed. See Secretary v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990) (“An impairment that manifests only some of [a Listed impairment's] criteria, no matter how severely, does not qualify”).

         Plaintiff is entitled to a finding of disability if her left-knee impairment results in the following:

1.02 Major dysfunction of a joint(s) (due to any cause): Characterized by gross anatomical deformity (e.g., subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis, instability) and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s). With:
A. Involvement of one major peripheral weight-bearing joint (i.e., hip, knee, or ankle), resulting in inability to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b;

         In her fact and law summary, the Commissioner focuses on Plaintiff's claimed ability to ambulate effectively as supporting the ALJ's finding that Listing 1.02 was not satisfied. Fact and law summary, Docket 20, pp. 3-5.

         Effective ambulation is defined in Section 1.00B2b as essentially an ability to walk sufficiently to carry out basic activities of daily living. According to Section 1.00B2b:

To ambulate effectively, individuals must be capable of sustaining a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance to be able to carry out activities of daily living.[3] They must have the ability to travel without companion assistance to and from a place of employment or school. Therefore, examples of ineffective ambulation include, but are not limited to, the inability to walk without the use of a walker, two crutches or two canes, the inability to walk a block at a reasonable pace on rough or uneven surfaces, the inability to use standard public transportation, the inability to carry out routine ambulatory activities, such as shopping and banking, and the inability to climb a few steps at a reasonable pace with the ...

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