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Duncan v. Berryhill

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

March 12, 2019

JENNY LEE DUNCAN PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's complaint seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her claim for Social Security disability benefits. Plaintiff's fact and law summary is at Docket # 17, and Defendant's fact and law summary is at Docket # 22. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Docket # 13.) The matter is ripe for determination.

         Discussion

         This Court's review of the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ's) decision is limited to whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009). “The substantial-evidence standard ... presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the courts.” Id. at 406. A reviewing court decides only whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision. Id. If so, the court affirms the decision even in the face of substantial evidence supporting the opposite conclusion. Id.

         Plaintiff makes two arguments:

         1. The ALJ erred in finding that her inflammatory arthritis does not meet or equal the clinical criteria of Section 14.09(D) of Appendix 1 of the regulations (the Listing of medical impairments). (Docket # 17 at 3 referencing Administrative Record (AR) at 17).

         2. The ALJ erred in finding that she has a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of sedentary work. (Id. at 5 referencing AR at 18).

         While Plaintiff shows that substantial evidence would have supported findings that her inflammatory arthritis satisfies the Listing and that she is unable to perform even a limited range of sedentary work, substantial evidence also supports the ALJ's findings to the contrary. Therefore, the Court will AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.

         Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's inflammatory arthritis does not satisfy Listing 14.09(D).

         Plaintiff carries the burden of proving that she suffers from a medical impairment satisfying the clinical criteria of a listed impairment, and her burden is strictly construed because the Listing represents an automatic screening in of an impairment as per-se disabling (independently of any other medical or vocational factor). See Sec'y of Health & Human Services v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990) (“An impairment that manifests only some of [a listed impairment's] criteria, no matter how severely, does not qualify.”); Elam ex rel. Golay v. Comm'r, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003) (“It is insufficient that a claimant comes close to meeting the requirements of a listed impairment.”).

         Listing 14.09(D) provides that Plaintiff is per-se disabled if she identifies evidence in the administrative record that required (and not merely allowed) the ALJ to find that the following clinical criteria are satisfied:

Repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:
(1) Limitation of activities of daily ...

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