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Webb v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

October 24, 2018

CORONA K. WEBB, Plaintiff,


          Joseph M. Hood United States Senior U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Corona K. Webb, proceeding pro se, brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed the record and the motions filed by the parties, will AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision as no legal error occurred and the decision is supported by substantial evidence.

         I. Standard for Determining Disability

         Under the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In determining disability, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five-step analysis. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the claimant's impairments are “severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step Four, whether the claimant can still perform past relevant work; and, if necessary, Step Five, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. Id.; see also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         II. Procedural and Factual History

         Webb initially filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)[1] in September 2014, alleging disability as of March 22, 2010, which was later amended to April 2010 based on the date that Webb stopped working. [TR 166, 184]. Webb alleged disability based on the following conditions: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, severe asthma, insomnia, urinary incontinence, blurry vision, muscle spasms, pain all over her body, numbness, and headaches. [TR 184]. Webb's claim for benefits was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [TR 71, 82].

         Then, Webb pursued her claim at a hearing in front of ALJ Bonnie Kittinger on August 1, 2016. [TR 43-70]. Webb was represented by attorney Frank Jenkins at the hearing. Webb testified at the hearing and explained that she could not walk for very long periods of time due to COPD and asthma. [TR 50]. Additionally, Webb stated that she used oxygen and inhalers because of these respiratory issues. [TR 51]. Furthermore, Webb testified that she had pain all over her body and that she fell often because her balance was off. [TR 52]. Webb also testified that she had pain in her left knee and ankle and that she used a breathing machine when sleeping at night. [TR 52-53, 56]. In addition to Webb's testimony, the ALJ heard testimony from a vocational expert, Dr. Rogers. [TR 62-68].

         On October 5, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. [TR 11-20]. The ALJ found that Webb suffered from the following severe impairments: COPD, degenerative disc disease, hypertension, and fibromyalgia. [TR 14]. Still, the ALJ determined that Webb had the residual function capacity to perform sedentary work with certain limitations. [TR 15]. Finally, after taking the vocational expert's testimony into account, the ALJ found that Webb could perform past semiskilled relevant work as a receptionist or telephone solicitor. [TR 19]. On October 13, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review. [TR 1-6].

         On December 12, 2017, Webb pursued judicial review of the Commissioner's decision by filing this appeal. [DE 1]. In its entirety, Webb's complaint says, “My name [is] Corona K. Webb and I am suing [the] United States Social Security Office, for my disability of appeal (sic), of Commissioner of Social Security (sic).” [DE 1 at 1, Page ID # 1]. On February 16, 2018, Webb filed a pro se motion for disability reevaluation, which states, “During trial, judge and disability examiner were more concerned with previous job habits rather than severity of health disabilities. Exertional requirements[] [and] residual function capacity [were] not established. Examiner did not present nor analyze certain factors from medical evidence records concerning impairments.” [DE 8 at 2, Page ID # 18]. The Commissioner answered Webb's complaint on April 20, 2018. [DE 11, 11-1].

         On April 23, 2018, the Court issued a standard scheduling order requiring Webb to move for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings within sixty days of the Commissioner filing an answer and certifying a copy of the transcript of the administrative record. [DE 12]. The scheduling order required the Commissioner to file a counter-motion or response within thirty days of Webb filing a motion for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings. [Id.].

         Webb filed a letter styled as a motion for reconsideration and approval of dire need disability benefits on June 22, 2018. [DE 13]. Webb's letter largely reiterated her previous motion, stating, “The case was erroneously denied because focus was only on previous job history and not on physical status.” [DE 13 at 1, Page ID # 1307]. Webb attached a list of medical conditions [DE 13-1] and a physician's note from Dr. Debra Tallo from a visit on March 20, 2018, [DE 13-2] to her motion.

         In response, the Commissioner moved for summary judgment on July 23, 2018. [DE 15]. On September 4, 2018, Webb moved for an extension of time to respond to Commissioner's motion for summary judgment. [DE 16]. The Court granted Webb's motion and required Webb to move for summary judgment or otherwise respond to Commissioner's motion for summary judgment on or before October 15, 2018. [DE 17].

         On October 19, 2018, Webb filed a two-page letter in response reiterating her previous claims and asking for reevaluation of the Commissioner's decision. [DE 18]. Webb attached medical records as an exhibit to her response. [DE 18-1]. Since the Commissioner has moved for summary judgment and Webb has responded, this case is ripe for review.

         III. ...

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