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Jackson v. Berryhill

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

September 28, 2017

CARMELA RENEE JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY J. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1] 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, 13) on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits.[2] The matter having been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this Court's review.[3]

         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.

         Carmela Renee Jackson ("Jackson" or "Plaintiff") filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on September 27, 2012, alleging disability commencing on September 1, 2012. (Tr. 24) . After being denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing on October 4, 2013. (Tr. 24) . Her case was heard by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Tommye C. Mangus, who issued an unfavorable decision on April 8, 2015. [Tr. 21-42]. Plaintiff had previously applied and been denied after a hearing in front of an ALJ in 2009 and ALJ Mangus adopted those findings as required by Drummond v. Comrn'r of Social Sec, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir. 1997) (Tr. 24) .

         In the denial decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had severe degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, obesity, and depression, but that these impairments did not meet or equal a presumptively disabling impairment listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1 [Tr. 27] . Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of September 27, 2012. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light exertion work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) that required no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no crawling; occasional stooping, bending, or crouching; no exposure to dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights; an option to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 minutes; and no production-rate quota work (Tr. 28) . The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4), making the ALJ's decision final. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. This appeal followed.

         Plaintiff contends the AL J's finding of her RFC is not supported by the treating or examining evidence of record, that the lay testimony proves she is totally disabled, that the ALJ committed reversible error in failing to apply the Sixth Circuit pain standard, and that the vocational expert's testimony proves Plaintiff is totally disabled. Plaintiff argues when determining ...


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