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Kendall v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 29, 2017

JASMINE K. KENDALL, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Colin Lindsay, Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         Plaintiff Jasmine K. Kendall (“Kendall”) filed this lawsuit against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. (DN 1.) Kendall challenges the Commissioner's decision to deny her disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. (Id. at 2.)

         The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (DN 11.) For the reasons below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny Kendall's claims. The Court will dismiss this action with prejudice.

         Background

         In January 2012, Kendall applied for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. (DN 7-6 at 149.) She alleged that in 2011 she began suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and frequent mood swings. (Id. at 152.) In support of these claims, Kendall provided a medical source report completed by her physician, Dr. Suellen Stevens, M.D., PLLC. (DN 7-7 at 269.)

         On initial review of both claims, the Commissioner consulted Dr. Robert Hodes, an independent state psychiatrist, to evaluate Kendall. (DN 7-3 at 93 - 94.) Hodes determined that Kendall had two severe impairments: a primary diagnosis of anxiety disorders and a secondary diagnosis of affective disorders. (Id. at 93.) Additionally, Hodes determined that Kendall was moderately restricted in her adaptation to changes in the work enjoyment, has moderate difficulty building relationships with coworkers, and has moderate difficulty traveling to unfamiliar places and using public transportation. (Id. at 96 - 97.) The Commissioner denied both claims, and found that Kendall was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (DN 7-4 at 111.)

         In July 2012, Kendall requested reconsideration and alleged her condition was worsening. (Id. at 115.) On reconsideration the Commissioner consulted Dr. H. Thompson Prout. (DN 7-3 at 103 - 09) Prout determined that Kendall suffers from anxiety and affective disorders. (DN 7-4 at 103.) Ultimately, Prout affirmed Dr. Hodes's conclusions and agreed that Kendall was not disabled. (DN 7-3 at 109.) On July 27, 2012 the Commissioner affirmed the initial finding that Kendall was not disabled. (Id. at 100.) The Commissioner denied further reconsideration of Kendall's claims. (DN 7-4 at 119.)

         In August 2012, Kendall requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (DN 7-4 at 122.) On October 15, 2013, Kendall appeared with counsel before an ALJ. (DN 7-2 at 39.) During the hearing the ALJ heard testimony from Kendall and a vocational expert, Tina Strambaugh. (Id. at 30.) The ALJ found that Kendall was not disabled under the Social Security Act and issued a written ruling. (Id. at 39.)

         First, the ALJ found that Kendall met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012. (Id. at 41.) Second, the ALJ found that Kendall had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 3, 2011. (Id.) Third, the ALJ found that Kendall “ha[d] the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, [depression]; social anxiety with agoraphobia; and obesity.” (Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) (brackets added).)

         Fourth, the ALJ found that Kendall does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals a listed impairment. (Id. at 42.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Kendall has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work. (Id. at 43.) Sixth, the ALJ found that Kendall is unable to perform her past relevant work. (Id. at 46.) Seventh, the ALJ found that Kendall is thirty-one years old and is categorized as an individual of a “younger age.” (Id. at 46.) Eighth, the ALJ noted that Kendall has a high school diploma and speaks English. (Id.) Ninth, the ALJ explained that the transferability of past job skills is not necessary to determine potential employment. (Id.) Tenth, the ALJ found that there are a substantial number of jobs available to Kendall despite her limitations. (Id. at 47.) Eleventh, the ALJ concluded that Kendall was not disabled. (Id.) The Commissioner adopted the ALJ's decision when the Appeals Council denied Kendall's request for review. (Id. at 22.)

         After the final decision, Kendall filed this action. (DN 1.) Now, Kendall's claims are fully briefed and ripe for review. (See DNs 19 & 24.)

         Standard of Review

         “The Commissioner's conclusion will be affirmed absent a determination that the ALJ failed to apply the correct legal standard or made fact findings unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Kyle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010). The Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence as “more than a mere scintilla, ” and it is sufficient that “a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal citations omitted).

         Discussion

         Under the applicable regulations, the Commissioner must follow a five-step process to evaluate claims. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)); see Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U.S. 617, 620 (1990). Steps four and five are at issue in this case and include:

IV: At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled. V: At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your age, education, and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)

         Residual functional capacity is an assessment of the claimant's “remaining capacity for work once her limitations have been taken into account” and must be based on “all the relevant medical and other evidence.” Webb v. Comm'r of ...


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