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Masters v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 31, 2017

MARY K. MASTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY J. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (DE 12, 14) on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits.[1] The matter having been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this Court's review.[2]

         I.

         In determining whether an individual is disabled, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five step analysis:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity is not disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition.
2. An individual who is working but does not have a “severe” impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is not disabled.
3. If an individual is not working and has a severe impairment which “meets the duration requirement and is listed in appendix 1 or equal to a listed impairment(s)”, then he is disabled regardless of other factors.
4. If a decision cannot be reached based on current work activity and medical facts alone, and the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Secretary reviews the claimant's residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the claimant's previous work. If the claimant is able to continue to do this previous work, then he is not disabled.
5. If the claimant cannot do any work he did in the past because of a severe impairment, then the Secretary considers his residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience to see if he can do other work. If he cannot, the claimant is disabled.

Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Hum. Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994)(citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(1982)).

         II.

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income (SSI), alleging disability beginning in May 2012 (Tr. 163-66). Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr. 84, 99). Thereafter, Plaintiff pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies before the Commissioner (Tr. 37-83 (hearing), 21-32 (administrative law judge (ALJ) decision), 1-5 (Appeals Council's denial of review of ALJ decision)). This case is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         III.

         Plaintiff was 36 years old at the time she filed her application (Tr. 30). She completed college (Tr. 42-43) and worked in the past as a receptionist and substitute teacher (Tr. 197). She alleged disability due to migraines, osteoarthritis, fatigue, back and knee pain, fibromyalgia, painful bladder (interstitial cystitis) with frequent urination, anemia, and depression (Tr. 195).

         The treatment notes show that Plaintiff went to various providers during the relevant time period (May 2012 (her alleged onset of disability) through January 2015 (the date of the ALJ's decision)).[3] Plaintiff saw providers at Family Health Center approximately once a month throughout the second half of 2012 for complaints such as face swelling, a urinary tract infection, congestion, a head injury following a fight, and bladder problems (Tr. 403-25). Also that year, Plaintiff went to a physical therapy evaluation for complaints of back and hip pain (see Tr. 331-38); x-rays of her lumbar spine were normal on two occasions (Tr. 433, 437) and an x-ray of her hip was also normal (Tr. 352, 425). She also went to an orthopedist for complaints of knee pain; x-rays of both knees were normal and she was given steroid injections (Tr. 353, 441-46). Plaintiff went to the hospital once in September 2012 with complaints of a headache; a scan of her head was normal (Tr. 342-51, 425).[4]

         In 2013, Plaintiff went to the hospital with complaints of bladder pain, and doctors viewed her bladder with a cystoscopy (Tr. 477-49). She also returned to Ms. Freeman once with complaints of depression and hip pain (Tr. 307-12). The record does not contain any treatment notes showing that ...


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