Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ceol v. Berryhill

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

March 30, 2017

DEBRA LEVON CEOL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of this Court, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 14]. Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 15 and 16] and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 and 18]. Debra Levon Ceol (“the Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Appeals Council's decision, the final decision of the Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”).

         On March 28, 2014, the Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), claiming a period of disability which began February 6, 2014. [Tr. 175-79]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). [Tr. 125-26]. On October 15, 2014, a hearing was held before the ALJ to review determination of the Plaintiff's claim. [Tr. 35-66]. On December 5, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 18-30]. The Appeals Council granted the Plaintiff's request for review. [Tr. 164-67]. Thereafter, the Appeals Council issued a decision on April 15, 2015, finding that the Plaintiff was not under a disability. [Tr. 1-6]. The Appeals Council adopted the ALJ's findings at steps one, two, and three, as well as adopted the ALJ's findings regarding the Plaintiff's subjective complaints and residual functional capacity (“RFC”). [Tr. 5-6]. At step four, while the ALJ found that the Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work, the Appeals Council concluded that the combination of the Plaintiff's impairments did not preclude the performance of past relevant work, namely that of a military clerk as it is generally performed. [Tr. 6]. Therefore, the Appeals Council ended its analysis at step four of the sequential evaluation, finding that the Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. [Id.]. The Appeals Council decision, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on July 23, 2015, 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.

         I. APPEALS COUNCIL/ALJ FINDINGS

         Adopting the ALJ's findings through step three of the sequential evaluation, as well as the RFC determination, the Appeal Council's made the following findings:[2]

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 11, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and lumbar spine, degenerative facet joint disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, hypertension, degenerative joint disease of the knee, mild pes planus deformity, and hearing loss (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she can frequently climb ramps or stairs; she can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, or crouch, she can occasionally crawl, she can tolerate noise intensity of moderate level but should avoid situations requiring excellent hearing; and she should avoid concentrated exposure to workplace hazards, such as proximity to moving mechanical parts or working in high exposed places.
6. The limitations on the claimant's ability to perform work-related activities as set forth in [the ALJ's Finding 5] do not preclude the performance of past relevant work as military clerk as it is generally performed. Therefore, the claimant's combination of impairments does not preclude the performance of past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1520(e)).
7. The claimant is not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act at any time through the date of the Administrative Law Judge's decision (December 5, 2014).

[Tr. 4-6, 23-28].

         II. DISABILITY ELIGIBILITY

         This case involves an application for DIB. An individual qualifies for DIB if he or she: (1) is insured for DIB; (2) has not reached the age of retirement; (3) has filed an application for DIB; and (4) is disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1).

         “Disability” is the “inability to engage in 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.” § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(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. § 423(d)(2)(A); see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.