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Hodson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

March 30, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Objection[1] to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (DN 21). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Objections are OVERRULED, the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R. & R.”) (DN 20) is ADOPTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint (DN 1) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Disability

         In August 2013, Plaintiff Mary W. Hodson (“Plaintiff”) protectively filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits alleging she had become disabled on July 23, 2013. (Administrative R. 198-204, DN 13-1 to DN 13-7 [hereinafter R.]). On December 11, 2013, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) notified Plaintiff that her benefits claims had been denied. (R. at 99-114). Plaintiff requested reconsideration on December 26, 2013. (R. at 142). On March 21, 2014, the SSA notified Plaintiff that an independent review by a physician and disability examiner in the state agency had found the previous denial of benefits to be proper. (R. at 115-132). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on February 16, 2016. (R. at 24-26). On December 10, 2015, Plaintiff participated in a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Patrick Kimberlin (“ALJ”). (R. at 52-98). The ALJ denied the claim, reasoning that Plaintiff had not been under a disability from July 23, 2013, through January 26, 2016, the date of the decision. (R. at 27-51).

         B. ALJ's Decision

         In reaching his decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's application under the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner. (R. at 27-51). First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 23, 2013, the alleged onset date. (R. at 32). Second, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's “history of breast cancer status/post bilateral mastectomies and chemotherapy, with residuals; mild cognitive disorder; major depressive disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; history of mild cerebral palsy since birth; panic disorder; and hypothyroidism” were “severe” impairments within the meaning of the regulations. (R. at 32-33). Third, the ALJ held that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1.[2] (R. at 33-35). Fourth, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, subject to limitations.[3] (R. at 35-42). Relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (R. at 42). Fifth, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert. (R. at 42-43). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy, and has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, [4]since the filing date of her application. (R. at 42-43). Plaintiff filed a request for review, which the Appeals Council denied. (R. at 2).

         C. Plaintiff's Federal Claim

         Plaintiff filed suit in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. (Compl., DN 1). Following the filing of the administrative record and fact and law summaries from each party, Magistrate Judge Lindsay recommended that the final decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (R. & R. 17).

         Plaintiff objected to Magistrate Judge Lindsay's recommendation, and the Commissioner responded. (Pl.'s Obj., DN 21; Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Obj., DN22). This matter is ripe for adjudication.


         The Court has jurisdiction to examine the record that was before the Commissioner on the date of the Commissioner's final decision and to enter judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing that decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         District courts review the parts of a magistrate judge's R. & R. to which objections are raised de novo, and, in doing so, may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the R. & R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). This differs from the standard applied to the Commissioner's decision. That decision, rendered by an ALJ, is reviewed to determine “whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, a court is obliged to affirm. Siterlet v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 823 F.2d 918, 920 (6th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). The district court may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of whether cited in the ALJ's decision. Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545-46 (6th Cir. 1986). “Even if supported by substantial ...

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