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Coleman v. Berryhill

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

September 29, 2017

BRENDA K. COLEMAN Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security 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 7, 9) on Plaintiff's appeal of the Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits.[1] The matter having been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this Court's review.

         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.

         Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), alleging disability (Tr. 217-21) beginning in June 2012. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr. 91-94), and by an Administrative Law Judge after a hearing (“ALJ”) (Tr. 12-28, 29-56). The Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-3), making the ALJ's March 2, 2015 decision the final agency decision for purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a). This appeal followed and the case is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Plaintiff was born on May 31, 1966, and was forty-six (46) years of age at the time of the alleged onset of disability (TR 22, 35). She has a tenth grade education and never obtained her GED (TR 35). She last worked as an associate at Bila's Gas & Go gas station where she did a number of tasks, including stocking and inventory orders and had previous experience as an assistant manager and a cashier at retail establishment and as a certified nursing assistance in a nursing facility (TR 35-37).

         In late June 2012, Plaintiff was treated at the Williamson Memorial Hospital emergency room for complaints of back pain resulting from a work-related injury. She complained of constant sharp and shooting low back pain radiating down her left hip and thigh (Tr. 425-434). A contemporaneous x-ray of Plaintiff's lumbar spine revealed mild disc space loss at ¶ 5-S1 with no fracture or subluxation (Tr. 435). The following day, Plaintiff was seen by physician, Ramanathan Padmanaban, M.D. (Tr. 452-453). Dr. Padmanaban performed a physical examination that indicated Plaintiff was experiencing decreased lumbar range of motion. An MRI scan revealed transitional fifth lumbar vertebra and mild degenerative central and posterior disc herniation with early degenerative change at ¶ 4-L5 (Tr. 454). Dr. Padmanaban diagnosed Plaintiff with a lumbar sprain and lumbosacral sprain; prescribed pain medication; and ordered physical therapy (Tr. 452-453). ...


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