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Workman v. Berryhill

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

September 5, 2017

GLORIA GARNETT WORKMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [*] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C. Reeves United States District Judge.

         This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Gloria Workman and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. [Record Nos. 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1, 1');">1');">1');">13] Workman contends that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) assigned to her case erred by denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits. [Record No. 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1] However, the Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed. [Record No. 1');">1');">1');">13] For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that remand for further proceedings is necessary.

         I.

         Workman filed an application for SSI under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) on September 1');">1');">1');">10, 201');">1');">1');">12. [Administrative Transcript, “Tr.” 396] She alleged a disability beginning in February 201');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1. [Tr. 41');">1');">1');">1] The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied her application initially and upon reconsideration. [Tr. 220-221');">1');">1');">1] Workman pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies. Her case is now ripe for this Court's review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1');">1');">1');">1383(c)(3).

         Workman was 50 years-old at the time of the ALJ's decision and had a GED. [Tr. 1');">1');">1');">191');">1');">1');">1] Although Workman had not been employed since February 201');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1, she worked previously as a cashier and cook at a Pizza Mart. [Tr. 1');">1');">1');">179] Workman contends that she is unable to work due to a host of issues, including heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines, fainting episodes, diverticulitis, GERD, depression, colitis, spina bifida, chronic back pain, and anemia. [Tr. 21');">1');">1');">10] She claims her daily ability to function is affected by weakness, shortness of breath, blackouts, fainting, dizziness, migraines, and chest pain. [Tr. 424] At the supplemental hearing held on August 5, 201');">1');">1');">15, Workman testified that, since the December 201');">1');">1');">14 hearing, she has experienced more seizures. [1');">1');">1');">179-80]

         After considering the testimony presented during the administrative hearing and reviewing the record, the ALJ concluded that Workman had severe impairments of degenerative disk disease, seizures and obesity. [Tr. 43] However, he determined that Workman had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with the following limitations:

[C]an never climb ladders ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs. She can occasionally balance, bend, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant must avoid all exposures to hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights.

[Tr. 49]

         After taking Workman's age, education, work experience, and RFC into consideration, the ALJ concluded that the claimant could perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy, such as laundry worker, night cleaner, routing clerk, office helper, retail order clerk, and inspector. [Tr. 58] As a result, he determined that Workman was not disabled from September 1');">1');">1');">10, 201');">1');">1');">12, through the date of the decision. [Id.]

         II.

         A “disability” is defined under the Act as “the inability to engage in ‘substantial gainful activity' because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment of at least one year's expected duration.” Cruise v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 539 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1');">1');">1');">1)(A)). In determining whether a claimant is “disabled” and entitled to supplemental income, she must first demonstrate that she is not engaged in substantial gainful employment at the time of the disability application. 20 C.F.R. § 41');">1');">1');">16.920(b). Second, the claimant must show that she suffers from a severe impairment or a combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 41');">1');">1');">16.1');">1');">1');">1520(c). Third, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful employment and has a severe impairment which is expected to last for at least twelve months and which meets or equals a listed impairment, she will be considered disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 41');">1');">1');">16.920(d). Fourth, if the claimant has a severe impairment but the Commissioner cannot make a determination of the disability based on medical evaluations and current work activity, the Commissioner will review the claimant's RFC and relevant past work to determine whether she can perform her past work. If she can, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 41');">1');">1');">16.920(f).

         If the claimant's impairments prevent her from doing past work, the Commissioner will consider her RFC, age, education, and past work experience to determine whether she can perform other work under the fifth step of the analysis. If she cannot perform other work, the Commissioner will find the claimant disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 41');">1');">1');">16.920(g). “The Commissioner has the burden of proof only on ‘the fifth step, proving that there is work available in the economy that the claimant can perform.'” White v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 31');">1');">1');">12 F. App'x 779, 785 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 391');">1');">1');">1 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1999)).

         A court reviewing a denial of Social Security benefits must only determine whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241');">1');">1');">1 (6th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as reasonable minds might accept as sufficient to support the conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1971');">1');">1');">1); Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007). The Commissioner's findings are conclusive if they are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III.

         Workman claims that the ALJ erred in concluding that she does not suffer from severe mental impairments and contends that the ALJ failed to assign weight to the opinion of a state agency non-examiner. Additionally, she contends the ALJ improperly weighed the opinions of medical sources. [Record No. 1');">1');">1');" ...


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