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Bennett v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 2, 2017

DIANN M. BENNETT, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Diann M. Bennett's (“Bennett”) Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Doc. No. 16), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Doc. No. 17). Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a Response in Opposition to Bennett's Motion. (Docket No. 18.) Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 10), [1] and for the reasons given below, the Court will DENY the Motion.

         I. Introduction

         On March 5, 2008 Bennett filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging a disability onset of September 1, 2005 (the “alleged onset date”). (A.R. 437-42.) Bennett's claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. (Id. at 292, 301) Bennett subsequently requested de novo review of his case by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 307.) The ALJ heard the case on August 23, 2010, when Bennett appeared, was represented by an attorney, and gave testimony. (Id. at 219.) Testimony was also received from an impartial vocational expert. (Id.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until September 7, 2010, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Bennett not disabled. (Id. at 271.)

         On March 1, 2012 the Appeals Council issued an order remanding the case to the ALJ. (Id. at 289.) The Appeal Council ordered a remand to “properly address, weigh, or give specific reasons for omitting the opinions of Ms. Emily Rummel, a non-treating source” and give further consideration to Bennett's RFC “during the entire period at issue and provide rationale with specific references to the evidence of record in support of the assessed limitations.” (Id.) The remand order also directed the ALJ to “obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on the claimant's occupational base” as required. (Id. at 290.)

         A second hearing was held on September 19, 2012 before the same ALJ. (Id. at 193.) On December 14, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision again denying Bennett's claim. (Id.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. Bennett meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009.
2. Bennett has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. Bennett has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, obesity, and diabetes (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Bennett does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. Bennett has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined by 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that she needs to avoid workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and moving machinery, she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, crouch, crawl, balance, stoop, or kneel; she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she is able to stand or walk for two to four hours in an eight-hour workday; she can sit for up to six hours in an eight-hour workday; she can understand, remember, carry out and attend to simple instructions and tasks without supervision; she can maintain personal hygiene, and make simple work decisions; she would work best in a position where she has minimal contact with the public and would respond best to positive supervision; she can recognize and avoid normal workplace hazards and use public transportation.
6. Bennett is unable to perform past relevant work (20 C.F.R. 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. Bennett was born on April 13, 1964 and was 41 years old at the alleged onset date, which is defined as a younger individual aged 18-49 (20 C.F.R. 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. Bennett has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 404.1564 and 416.968).
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because Bennett's past relevant work is unskilled (20 C.F.R. 404.1568 and 416.968).
10. Considering Bennett's age, education, work experience, and RFC there are jobs that exists in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform (20 C.F.R. 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. Bennett has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date through the date of this decision (20 ...

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