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Johnson v. Berryhill

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

May 11, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT


          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge.


         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Tonya G. Johnson (''Plaintiff'') seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 11) and Defendant (DN 14) 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 9). By Order entered October 24, 2016 (DN 10), 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.


         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 11, 2013 (Tr. 24, 244). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on January 23, 2013, as a result of chronic pain from degenerative disc disease in the neck and back, neuropathy and limitation of movement in the left side, obesity, chronic diarrhea, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, short-term memory loss, high cholesterol, and persistent bladder infections with incontinence (Tr. 24, 294-95). From Lexington, Kentucky, Administrative Law Judge Karen R. Jackson (''ALJ'') conducted a video hearing on November 4, 2014, and a supplemental video hearing on April 16, 2015 (Tr. 24, 45, 83). Plaintiff and her counsel, Richard Burchett, participated in both video hearings from Campbellsville, Kentucky (Id.). Laura Lykins, an impartial vocational expert, attended but did not testify during the November 4, 2014 video hearing (Tr. 24, 83). Linda Taber, an impartial vocational expert, attended and testified during the supplemental hearing on April 16, 2015 (Tr. 24, 45).

         In a decision dated May 26, 2015, the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 24-37). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 23, 2013 the alleged onset date (Tr. 26).

         At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following ''severe'' impairments: lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, minimal degenerative joint disease/bursitis of the left hip, obesity, depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Id.). The ALJ also determined although Plaintiff's hypertension, history of chronic cystourethritis, and bilateral wrist osteoarthritis are medically determinable impairments, they are ''non-severe'' because the evidence fails to demonstrate that they cause more than minimal limitations (Tr. 27). Additionally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's chronic diarrhea is not a medically determinable impairment (Id.).

         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 (Id.). More specifically, the ALJ found from the totality of the medical evidence that Plaintiff's back condition did not meet Listing 1.04, her hip condition did not rise to the level of severity required by Listing 1.02, and her mental impairments do not meet or medically equal the criteria of Listings 12.04 and 12.06 (Tr. 28-29).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ made the following residual functional capacity finding:

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 CFR 404.1567(b) except that she can lift only 20 lbs. occasionally and 10 lbs. frequently. She can stand/walk for six hours in an 8-hour day. She can sit for six hours in an 8-hour day. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She can only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and all exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights or dangerous machinery. She can only perform simple, routine work tasks. She can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour segments during an 8-hour workday. She can adapt to gradual changes in a routine work environment. She can interact frequently with supervisors and coworkers, but only occasionally with the general public.

(Tr. 29). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable perform any of her past relevant work (Tr. 35).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 35-36). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 36). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a ''disability, '' as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 23, 2013 through the date of the decision, May 26, 2015 (Tr. 36-37).

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. 18, 20). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-3).

         CONCLUSIONS ...

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