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Fitzgerald v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

March 12, 2019

KIMBERLY PITTMAN FITZGERALD PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GREG N. STIVERS, CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Objections (DN 31) to Magistrate Judge King's Report & Recommendation (DN 29), and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint (DN 30). The matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation, and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         PLAINTIFF filed for Supplemental Income and Disability Insurance Benefits on January 14, 2014, claiming a disability onset date of October 15, 2012. (Administrative R. 32, 290-307, DN 14 [hereinafter R.]). The Social Security Administration denied her claim initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (R. 175, 182, 190, 197).

         ALJ Christine A. Cooke conducted an administrative hearing on November 12, 2015. (R. 26). The ALJ concluded at the initial hearing that she needed more information from a medical expert and a supplemental hearing. (R. 76-77). The ALJ conducted the supplemental hearing on March 23, 2016. (R. 79).

         The ALJ rendered her decision on April 21, 2016. (R. 27-44). The ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner. (R. 32); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). At the first step, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 32). At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff to have the several “severe” impairments: lupus, fibromyalgia, diabetes, obesity, and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. (R. 32). At step three, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. 33).

         Before proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work. (R. 33-34). At step four, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff did not have the residual functional capacity to perform any of her past relevant work. (R. 37). At step five, relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that there are a significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy that a person of Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity could perform. (R. 37). As a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date through the date of the decision. (R. 38). Plaintiff timely appealed the unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council, who denied her appeal. (R. 1-5). As a result, the ALJ's decision serves as the final opinion of the Commissioner.

         PLAINTIFF appealed the Commissioner's decision to this Court. (Compl., DN 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the undersigned referred this case to the Magistrate Judge for preparation of a report and recommendation of disposition. (Order, DN 15). The Magistrate Judge filed his findings and recommended that the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision and dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (R. & R. 8, DN 29).

         II. JURISDICTION

         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 a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing that decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a party objects to any portion of a Magistrate Judge's R. & R., the District Judge reviews those portions de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court reviews the ALJ's determination of disability “to determin[e] 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).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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