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Watkins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, at Covington

April 25, 2018

ELIZABETH WATKINS, 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 April 2010, alleging disability beginning in April 2010, due to "carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems, shoulder problems, neck problems, leg problems, osteoarthritis, anxiety and depression" (Tr. 378). This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. In 2014, an Administrative Law Judge found Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act (Tr. 199). She requested Appeals Council review; the Appeals Council found errors in the ALJ's evaluation of the medical source opinion evidence and remanded the case back to an ALJ for re-evaluation of that evidence (Tr. 219-21).

         On remand, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Andrew Gollin (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff testified. At the hearing, Connie O'Brien-Heckler, 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 impairment(s) 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 44 years on the date she alleges she became disabled. She has a high school education and her past relevant work experience consists of work as a sewing machine operator, server, extruder operator, injection molder and welder.

         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. 14).

         The ALJ then determined, at Step 2, that Plaintiff suffers from osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome of the bilateral hands, degeneration of the right and left shoulder joints, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar as well as cervical spines, radiculopathy, depression and anxiety, which he ...


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