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Gupton v. Berryhill

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

June 9, 2017

KIMBERLY M. GUPTON PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, United States District Court 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 13 and 16. 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 11 .

         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.

         Background facts and procedural history

         In August 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits. She alleges that she became disabled on March 1, 2013.

         Physically, Plaintiff suffers, among other things, from cervical degenerative disc disease with history of discectomy and fusion procedure, lumbar degenerative disc disease, thoracic ankyloses, and kyphosis. Administrative Record (AR), p. 50.

         An x-ray of the lumbar spine from May 2014 was interpreted by Kara Gilkey, M.D., as showing “degenerative changes particularly L2-3.” AR, p. 384.[1]

         In October 2015, Plaintiff was examined at the request of the Commissioner by Edgar Lopez- Suescum, M.D. Dr. Lopez-Suescum's narrative report is at AR, pp. 409-413.

         In January 2015, based in part on the findings of Drs. Gilkey and Lopez-Suescum, the non- examining state-agency program physician, Donna Sadler, completed (or signed off on) a Physical Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)[2] Assessment, indicating that Plaintiff is able to perform a limited range of light work.[3] AR, pp. 147-149, 154.

         An MRI of the lumbar spine from July 2015 was interpreted by Jason White, M.D., as showing “multi-level hypertrophic discogenic disease, most significant at ¶ 12-L1 where there is a large disc herniation resulting in mild central stenosis.” AR, p. 554.[4]

         In September 2015 (after the administrative hearing in August 2015), Plaintiff obtained a consultative report from neurosurgeon Vaughan Allen, M.D. Physical examination revealed essentially normal findings except Plaintiff has “1 knee, absent ankle, ” which Plaintiff interprets to mean that she exhibited “diminished reflex in the knee and absent reflex in the ankle.” AR, p. 626; Docket 13, p. 4. Dr. Allen's impression was low back pain and radicular leg pain. AR, p. 626. His plan was epidural steroid injections (ESIs). Id. His interpretation of the July 2015 MRI was that Plaintiff has “pretty significant multilevel degenerative disc disease with varying degrees of foraminal pathology and some degree of canal narrowing.” AR, p. 625. He did not offer an opinion concerning Plaintiff's RFC.

         The ALJ found that, although she cannot perform her past relevant work, Plaintiff retains the ability to perform a significant number of light jobs in the national economy. AR, p. 61. In finding that Plaintiff has an RFC for light work, the ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Sadler's RFC Assessment. AR, p. 56. In giving “great weight” to Dr. Sadler's RFC, the ALJ observed that the “objective findings [including the x-ray and MRI findings] have generally been mild.” Id.

         Alternatively, the ALJ found that a significant number of jobs are available in the national economy “even if [Plaintiff is] limited to sedentary work[5]” and “even if [she is] limited to no forward reaching.” AR, p. 61.

         Plaintiff's argument identifies, at ...


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