Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Norris v. Berryhill

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

March 31, 2017

MELODY A. NORRIS PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Melody A. Norris (''Plaintiff'') seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 16) and Defendant (DN 21) have filed a Fact and Law Summary.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 12). By Order entered September 1, 2016 (DN 13), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits on August 19, 2013 (Tr. 15, 182, 185). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on August 6, 2013 as a result of Graves disease (Tr. 15, 182, 185, 235). Administrative Law Judge David S. Pang (''ALJ'') conducted a video hearing from Baltimore, Maryland on January 12, 2015 (Tr. 15, 35-37). Plaintiff and her counsel, Richard Burchett, participated from Bowling Green, Kentucky (Id.). James W. Primm testified as an impartial vocational expert during the administrative hearing (Id.).

         In a decision dated March 16, 2015, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 15-28). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018 (Tr. 17). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 6, 2013 the alleged onset date (Tr. 17). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's Graves' disease, diabetes, and visual impairment in combination constitute a ''severe'' impairment within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 17-18). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's obesity and depressive disorder are ''non-severe'' impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 18-21). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 21-22).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff “has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant cannot work in unprotected heights, operate heavy machinery, or operate a motor vehicle” (Tr. 22). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is “capable of performing past relevant work as a Cook, Child Care Attendant, and Dairy Helper” (Tr. 26). Additionally, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 27-28). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 27-28). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a ''disability, '' as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 6, 2013 through the date of the decision, March 16, 2015 (Tr. 28).

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 9-11). In support of the request Plaintiff submitted additional medical evidence (Tr. 2, 5). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4). Notably, the Appeals Council found the new medical evidence did not affect the ALJ's decision because it concerned Plaintiff's condition after March 16, 2015 (Tr. 2).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard of Review

         Review by the Court is limited to determining whether the findings set forth in the final decision of the Commissioner are supported by ''substantial evidence, '' 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992), and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Landsaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). ''Substantial evidence exists when a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could support a decision the other way.'' Cotton, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial evidence, the Court ''may not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.'' Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)).

         As previously mentioned, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-4). At that point, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955(b), 404.981, 422.210(a); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) (finality of the Commissioner's decision). Thus, the Court will be reviewing the decision of the ALJ, not the Appeals Council, and the evidence that was in the administrative record when the ALJ rendered the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Cline v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 96 F.3d 146, 148 (6th Cir. 1996); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695-696 (6th Cir. 1993).

         The Commissioner's Sequential Evaluation Process

         The Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq. (Title II Disability Insurance Benefits), 1381 et seq. (Title XVI Supplemental Security Income). The term ''disability'' is defined as an

[I]nability to engage in any 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 twelve (12) months.

42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (Title II), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Title XVI); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a); Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

         The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See ''Evaluation of disability in general, '' 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. In summary, the evaluation proceeds as follows:

1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2) Does the claimant have a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that satisfies the duration requirement and significantly limits his or her ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.