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Klusmeier v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

March 21, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          SHIRLEY, JUDGE



         This case is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 19 and 20] and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 21 and 22]. Deloris A. Klusmeier (“the Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), and the final decision of the Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”).

         On February 29, 2012, the Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”), claiming a period of disability which began March 1, 2000. [Tr. 151-56]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing. [Tr. 95]. On April 28, 2014, a hearing was held before an ALJ to review determination of Plaintiff's claim. [Tr. 37-59]. On August 11, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 8-34]. The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-6]; thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on January 20, 2016, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 1]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.


         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 29, 2012, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis; degenerative disc disease (DDD); morbid obesity; dysthymic disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); social phobia; and rule out borderline intellectual functioning (BIF) (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b). The claimant can lift and carry, push and pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, with the exception of occasional pushing and pulling with the right lower extremity. With normal breaks in an eight-hour day, she can sit for six hours, and stand and/or walk for six hours; can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; can frequently climb ramps and stairs; and can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant's far acuity is limited to gross vision, meaning that objects 20 feet away can be blurry. The claimant can understand and remember for one to three step tasks, can maintain attention and concentration for at least two hour periods; cannot work in a public setting, can sustain superficial interaction with her peers; and can adapt to gradual change.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on June 22, 1971 and was 40 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968)
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 29, 2012, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

[Tr. 13-28].


         This case involves an application for SSI benefits. To qualify for SSI benefits, an individual must file an application and be an “eligible individual” as defined in the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a); 20 C.F.R. § 416.202. An individual is eligible for SSI benefits on the basis of financial need and either age, blindness, or disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a).

         “Disability” is “the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a).

         A claimant will only be considered disabled if:

his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a).

         Disability is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis summarized as follows:

1. If claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.
2. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment must be severe before he can be found to be disabled.
3. If claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity and is suffering from a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairment meets or equals a listed impairment, claimant is presumed disabled without further inquiry.
4. If claimant's impairment does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
5. Even if claimant's impairment does prevent him from doing his past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and vocational factors ...

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