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Long v. Berryhill

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

March 5, 2018

CRYSTAL A. LONG, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         This action was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Crystal Long's (“Plaintiff”) claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), as provided by the Social Security Act.

         The parties have consented to entry of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), with any appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [Doc. 12]. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 15] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 17].

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion [Doc. 15] and GRANTS Defendant's motion [Doc. 17].

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., based on degenerative disc disease, asthma, fibromyalgia, headaches, plantar fasciitis, heart arrhythmia, and depression[1] [Tr. 232-245, 274].[2] Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration [Tr. 114-115, 149-154, 166-169]. On July 20, 2015, Plaintiff appeared via videoconference and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Thomas Sanzi [Tr. 42-79]. On September 23, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was “not disabled, ” as defined in the applicable sections of the Act, because work existed in the national economy that she could still perform [Tr. 12-31]. On October 31, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-4]. Thus, Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision subject to judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience

         Plaintiff is currently a thirty-seven-year-old individual who performed past relevant work as a child monitor, cashier, fast food worker, and loader/unloader [Tr. 47-51, 64-65, 286-299]. At the time of her amended alleged onset date of June 25, 2013, Plaintiff was thirty-two years old [Tr. 240].

         Plaintiff's Testimony and Medical History

         The parties and the ALJ have summarized and discussed the medical and testimonial evidence of the administrative record. Accordingly, the Court will discuss those matters as relevant to the analysis of the parties' arguments.

         The ALJ's Findings

         After considering the entire record, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2002.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 25, 2013, the amended alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Degenerative disc disease; left heel spur; bilateral plantar fasciitis; asthma; headaches; inflammatory arthritis; tachycardia; right knee osteoarthritis; obesity; anxiety disorder; depression; [and] borderline intellectual functioning (20 CFR 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that she can frequently climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can frequently balance, kneel, and crawl, but only occasionally stoop and crouch. She should avoid concentrated exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, and gases. The claimant is limited to work involving simple, routine tasks, in which she would be allowed to be off-task 5 percent of the day, in addition to normal breaks.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on November 29, 1980 and was 32 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 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 CFR 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 CFR 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 June 25, 2013, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

[Tr. 14-31].

         III. Analysis

         A. Stand ...

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