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Phillips v. Berryhill

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

June 4, 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 Crystal D. Phillips (“Plaintif”) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Both the Plaintiff (DN 19) and Defendant (DN 24) 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 15). By Order entered August 22, 2018 (DN 14), 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 Supplemental Security Income benefits on July 15, 2015 (Tr. 15, 218-26). Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on January 20, 2010 as a result of fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, depression, anxiety, severe back pain with numbness into the legs and feet, stomach problems, fatigue, and constant pain (Tr. 15, 292). Plaintiff subsequently amended her alleged onset date to July 15, 2015 (Tr. 15). Administrative Law Judge Mattie Harvin-Woode (AALT) conducted a video hearing from St. Louis, Missouri on September 14, 2017 (Tr. 15, 32-35). Plaintiff and her non-attorney representative, Jeffrey Smith, participated from Bowling Green, Kentucky (Tr. 15, 32-35, 205-06). Mark A. Anderson testified as an impartial vocational expert during the hearing (Tr. 15, 32-35).

         In a decision dated November 30, 2017 the ALJ evaluated this adult disability claim pursuant to the five-step sequential evaluation process promulgated by the Commissioner (Tr. 15-26). At the first step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 15, 2015, the alleged onset date (Tr. 17).

         At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: obesity; lumbar degenerative disc disease; history of sensorimotor polyneuropathy in the lower extremities; history of moderate pes planus bilaterally; a history of sleep apnea; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); an anxiety disorder; and a major depressive disorder (Tr. 17). The ALJ also determined that Plaintiffs esophageal reflux; history of migraine headaches; myopia; and astigmatism are medically determinable non-severe impairments (Id.). Additionally, the ALJ concluded there is a lack of evidence in the record to support Plaintiffs allegation of fibromyalgia (Tr. 17-18).

         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. 18). Additionally, the ALJ specifically indicated Plaintiff did not meet or medically equal Listings 1.04, 12.04, and 12.15 as well as explained why the "paragraph B" and "paragraph C" criteria for these listings are not satisfied (Tr. 18-19).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except she needs the option to sit or stand as needed, but can continue working in either position; can occasionally stoop, crouch, and climb; can occasionally climb ramps or stairs; should never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; cannot kneel or crawl; should avoid work hazards and concentrated exposure to vibrations; is limited to simple, routine tasks; and can occasionally interact with the general public, but not in large, crowded, public environments (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. 24).

         The ALJ proceeded to the fifth step where he considered Plaintiffs RFC, age, education, and past work experience as well as testimony from the vocational expert (Tr. 25-26). The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing a significant No. of jobs that exist in the national economy (Id., ). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a Adisability," as defined in the Social Security Act, from July 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. 213-17). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review (Tr. 1-3).


         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 Asubstantial evidence," 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Cotton v. Sullivan,2 F.3d 692, 695 (6th Cir. 1993); Wvatt v. Sec'v 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 V of Health & Human Servs.,987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993)). In reviewing a case for substantial evidence, the Court Amay not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts ...

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