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Lawson v. Berryhill

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

April 13, 2018

LORRAINE LYNNE LAWSON, PLAINTIFF, 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. 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 in 2013, alleging disability due to right foot and ankle pain (Tr. 179). This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, upon request by Plaintiff, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Dennis Hansen (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, William Ellis, 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 (Tr. 16-24). Plaintiff was 49 years old at the time she alleges she became disabled. She has a high school education (Tr. 179-180). Her past relevant work experience consists of various clerical and retail customer service jobs. (Tr. 180).

         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 of August 2013 (Tr.18).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from arthritis of back and knees, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and post-surgery of her right ankle, which he found to be "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations (Tr. 18-20).

         At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (Tr. 20). In doing so, the ALJ specifically considered Listing 1.02 but concluded that because she was not impeded in her ability to ambulate or perform fine and gross movements effectively, she was not presumptively disabled. (Tr. 20).

         The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not return to her past relevant work (Tr. 23) but determined that she has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work (requiring lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) that involved standing and walking a total of four hours per eight-hour workday; frequently stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, reaching, handling, fingering, feeling, and climbing ramps and stairs; occasionally climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasionally being exposed to extreme cold, humidity, wetness, and vibration; never being exposed to unprotected heights or moving machinery; and never operating a motor vehicle (Tr. 20).

         The ALJ finally concluded that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national and regional economies, as identified by the VE (Tr. 23-24).

         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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