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Hendrix v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

April 1, 2019

KAREN DIANA HENDRIX PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          H. Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge

         BACKGROUND

         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Karen Hendrix, seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 17) and Defendant (DN 22) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned orders that judgment be granted for the Commissioner.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties have consented to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge conducting all further proceedings in this case, including issuance of a memorandum opinion and entry of judgment, with direct review by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the event an appeal is filed (DN 14). By Order entered August 20, 2018 (DN 13), the parties were notified that oral arguments would not be held unless a written request therefor was filed and granted. No. such request was filed.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         Hendrix filed an application for supplemental security income on December 27, 2011 (Tr. 186-191). Hendrix alleged that she became disabled on September 1, 2001 as a result of a back condition, neck condition, left knee condition, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, breathing problems, and osteoporosis (Tr. 87). Administrative Law Judge Brian Curley (''AALJ'') conducted a video hearing on April 22, 2014 from Paducah, Kentucky. Hendrix appeared from Madisonville and was represented by Kyle Reeder. Also present and testifying was Lowell Lato, Ph.D. as an impartial vocational expert.

         In a decision dated May 7, 2014, the ALJ Curley found Hendrix was not disabled (Tr. 14-23). On September 21, 2015 the Appeals Council denied Hendrix's request for review (Tr. 1-3). This Court reviewed the decision and remanded the case on July 22, 2016 (Tr. 979). The Appeals Council vacated the previous decision and a new hearing was held on October 23, 2017 before Administrative Law Judge Lisa R. Hall (“ALJ”) (Tr. 923-953). On March 28, 2018, the ALJ again found Hendrix not disabled (Tr. 989-909). Hendrix timely filed suit.

         The Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating a disability claim. See ''Evaluation of disability in general, ''20 C.F.R. §416.920. At the first step, the ALJ found Hendrix has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 27, 2011, the application date (Tr. 900). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Hendrix's degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, anxiety, and depression are ''severe'' impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 900). Notably, at the second step, the ALJ also determined that Hendrix's epilepsy, obstructive pulmonary disease, migraines, cellulitis, and obesity are ''non-severe'' impairments within the meaning of the regulations (Tr. 901). At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Hendrix does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 902).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Hendrix has the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work (Tr. 903). More specifically, the ALJ found that Hendrix can lift and carry or push/pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit, stand, and walk for at least 6 hours each in an 8 hour work day; occasionally reach overhead; should avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, pulmonary irritants, vibration, and hazards such as unprotected heights or moving/dangerous machinery; she can perform simple, routine, repetitive work tasks; occasionally interact with co-workers and supervisors; she cannot maintain sustained interaction with the general public; she should not work in a fast paced or production based work environment, but can do entry level or goal oriented work. (Tr. 903). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Hendrix has no past relevant work (Tr. 908).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where she considered Hendrix's residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 908). The ALJ found that Hendrix is capable of performing a significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy (Tr. 908). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Hendrix has not been under a ''disability, '' as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 27, 2011 through the date of the decision (Tr. 909).

         CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Standard of Review

         Review by the Court is limited to determining whether the findings set forth in the final decision of the Commissioner are supported by ''substantial evidence, ''42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992), and whether the correct legal standards were applied. Landsaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). ''Substantial evidence exists when a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could support a decision the other way.'' Cotton, 2 F.3d at 695 (quoting Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial evidence, the Court ''may not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.'' Cohen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)).

         The administrative record does not indicate whether Hendrix requested a review of the ALJ's decision, and the Appeals Counsel denied her request. Notwithstanding, the parties appear to be in agreement that the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. Therefore, the Court will review the decision of ...


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