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Talley v. Berryhill

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

June 29, 2017

MARY TALLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Newbern Magistrate Judge.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is Plaintiff Mary Talley's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Docket No. 15), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Docket No. 16). Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion (Docket No. 17), to which Plaintiff replied (Docket No. 18). On May 26, 2015, this case was referred to a Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 3.) The court hereby withdraws that referral. Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Docket No. 11), [2] and for the reasons given below, the Plaintiff's Motion (Docket No. 15) will be denied.

         I. Introduction

         Talley filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI on November 18, 2011, both alleging a disability onset of November 14, 2010. (Tr. 11.) Talley's claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. Talley subsequently requested de novo review of her case by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ heard the case on September 11, 2013, when Talley appeared through counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 35-49.) Testimony was also received from a vocational expert. (Tr. 39-57.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until October 29, 2013, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Talley not disabled. (Tr. 8-30.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2016.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 14, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder, obesity and osteoarthritis of the left knee (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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 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. After careful consideration of the entire record, … the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) in that she can occasionally lift/carry 20 pounds and frequently lift/carry ten pounds. She can stand/walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday and sit for six hours. However, she can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds and can only frequently climb stairs/ramps, balance, crawl, kneel, stoop, crouch, or handle with her right upper extremity. She can understand, remember and carry out simple, detailed and multistep detailed, but not executive level tasks. She can maintain concentration, persistence and pace for those tasks, can interact appropriately with others, but can adapt to only occasional changes in the workplace.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on December 13, 1962 and was 47 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20 C.F.R. 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. 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 C.F.R. 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 14, 2010, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 13-16, 23-25.)

         On March 27, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Talley's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5), thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the SSA. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Review of the Record

         The following summary of the medical record is taken from the ALJ's decision:

The claimant also had right epicondylitis and surgical repair before the alleged onset date. By January of 2011, she was requesting, and was released by her orthopedist, to return to regular duty work. In October, she saw Dr. Brian Koch for follow up after her surgery and demonstrated full range of motion of her shoulder, elbow and wrist. He described her tenderness as minimal and noted five out of five strength distally. She was to return to regular duty work. There is no loss of strength or sensation in her affected extremity documented in the record. She also did not follow up with her surgeon. She complained of shoulder pain when she visited her primary care provider in August of 2011, but he did not address the complaint in either his “assessment” or “plan.” In the “review of the systems, ” he acknowledged her complaints with a “yes” for arthritis, joint pain and joint stiffness, but attached the label “no” to back pain, and joint swelling. The examination revealed normal gait, no muscle weakness, motor strength of five out of five in all four extremities, no sensory/motor deficit and no joint swelling or tenderness. It is interesting to note that when the claimant went to Cumberland Mental Health Center in January of 2012, the only physical problem recorded was hypertension. When the claimant visited Dr. Gomez that same month, she had full range of motion in both shoulders, both wrists and both elbows.
Five months prior to her alleged onset date, the claimant visited the emergency room at University Medical Center with suicidal ideation in June of 2010. She reported a longstanding depression with a “meltdown” the previous day and was assigned a GAF score of 25. It is interesting to note she had been to the Sumner Regional Medical Center ER with acute back and chest pain the day before, that is the day of the reported “meltdown”. She did not report any emotional or mental complaints at this visit, and in fact, her chest pain was felt to be musculoskeletal in nature (shoulder related). She was noted to be stable and report [sic] feeling much better after getting pain medication. Exhibits 1F and 2F.
The claimant was kept in the hospital for five days for psychiatric treatment. Two days after discharge, she met with social worker, Wendy Foster for follow up at Cumberland Mental Health Center. She was described this time as having sad affect and depressed mood, but appropriate appearance, behavior, insight level, judgment level and impulse level. She had normal thought content, organized thought flow, fair recent memory, remote memory and ...

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