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Ramey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division at PIKEVILLE

February 20, 2018

CHARLENE SUE RAMEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WILHOIT, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiffs application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed her current application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits in May 2015, alleging disability beginning on April 2, 2010, due to "vaginal and vulvar cancers: stage 1, broken forearm 2 steel plate and 9 pins in right forearm, rheumatoid arthritis, 2 broken fingers, fractured right wrist, COPD, hypertension, manic depression: suicidal thoughts and anxiety" (Tr. 284).

         This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, upon request by Plaintiff, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Maia Hodges (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Anthony T. Michael, Jr., a vocational expert (hereinafter "VE"), also testified.

         At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:

Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairments) must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant's impairment or impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is not disabled.

         The ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff was 46 years old at the time of the hearing decision. She has a 12th grade education (Tr. 285). There are no records of a job after 2008; before 2008, Plaintiff worked as a cashier, sandwich maker and shelter worker (Tr. 36 and 286).

         At Step 1 of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability (Tr. 27).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis, COPD, obesity and hypertension, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 27-28).

         At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (Tr. 28-30).

         The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work (Tr. 36) but determined that she has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light exertion work that required no more than frequent climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; avoidance of concentrated exposure to vibration and pulmonary irritants; no more than frequent handling with the right arm; no reaching behind with the right arm. Further, the ALJ found that Plaintiff can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions with a brief initial learning period and little judgment required; subject to occasional changes in the work setting; occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors, with no tandem tasks; no interaction with the general public; and low stress work, defined as no fast-paced production rates (Tr. 30).

         The ALJ finally concluded that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national and regional economies, as identified by the VE (Tr. 36).

         Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled at Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner . Plaintiff thereafter filed this civil action seeking a reversal of the Commissioner's decision. Both parties ...


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