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Lawrence v. Berryhill

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

April 26, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT


          H. Brent Brennenstuhl, United States Magistrate Judge.


         Before the Court is the complaint (DN 1) of Jacqueline Caroline Lawrence (“Plaintiff”) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 16) and Defendant (DN 19) have filed a Fact and Law Summary. For the reasons that follow, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED, and judgment is 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 October 3, 2018 (DN 15), 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.


         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 23, 2015 (Tr. 15, 172-78). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on June 15, 2015, as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome, bilaterally; protruding discs in the lumbar spine; cancer survivor, double mastectomy; impinged left shoulder and elbow that cannot be surgically repaired; chronic migraines; high blood pressure; ulcers; muscle spasms and pain in the cervical spine; and no lymph nodes in the left side due to mastectomy (Tr. 15, 204). Administrative Law Judge Jerry Lovitt (AALJ@) conducted a video hearing from Louisville, Kentucky on September 20, 2017 (Tr. 15, 40-42). Plaintiff was present and represented by Kirsten Brown, a non-attorney representative (Id.). Jacqueline Vega Velez testified as an impartial vocational expert during the hearing (Id.).

         In a decision dated December 5, 2017 the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 15-27). At the first step, the ALJ acknowledged evidence indicating that Plaintiff worked after the alleged disability onset date but concluded the work activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity (Tr. 18). Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2015, the alleged onset date (Tr. 17).

         At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, left shoulder degenerative joint disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and headaches (Tr. 18). Additionally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's hypertension, gastric ulcers, and depression and anxiety were non-severe impairments (Tr. 18-19).

         At the third step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 (Tr. 19). The ALJ indicated that he considered whether Plaintiff met or medically equaled the criteria of any impairment listed in 1.00 and explained why he determined she did not meet or medically equal Listings 1.02, 1.04, and 1.08 (Tr. 19-20). The ALJ also explained that Plaintiff did not have any neurological deficits as described in any part of Listing 11.01, including sustained disturbance of two or more extremities (Tr. 20).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range of light work because she was limited to frequent climbing of ramps/stairs, frequent balancing; limited to occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; limited to no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; limited to no unprotected heights; limited to no more than occasional exposure to vibration and extreme temperatures; limited to exposure of no more than moderate levels of noise as defined in Appendix D of the Selected Characteristics of Occupations, 1993 Edition. The ALJ also limited Plaintiff to frequent bilateral handling and fine fingering; limited to frequent reaching all directions with the left non-dominant hand; limited to no fast-pace production line or quota driven work; and Plaintiff would also be off task for no more than 10% of the workday in addition to normally scheduled breaks, and would miss no more than one day of work per month (Tr. 20). Relying on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work (Tr. 25).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 25-26). The ALJ found that Plaintiff can perform a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy (Id.). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 15, 2015, through the date of the decision (Tr. 26).

         Plaintiff timely filed a request for the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision (Tr. Tr. 170-71). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-3).

         CONCLUSIONS ...

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