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Hensley v. Berryhill

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

March 6, 2018

TANYA HENSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 16]. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 14 & 15], Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18], and Plaintiff's Reply Brief [Doc. 19]. Tanya Hensley (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's motion and GRANT the Commissioner's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., claiming that she suffers from degenerative bone disease that has rendered her disabled since May 1, 2006, the amended onset date. [Tr. 41, 305, 310]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 132]. A hearing was held on October 26, 2012, resulting in an unfavorable decision by the ALJ.[2] [Tr. 57-83, 102-12]. The Appeals Council remanded the case back to the ALJ [Tr. 118-20], and a second hearing was conducted on January 21, 2015 [Tr. 37-56]. On February 3, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 19-31]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 1-3], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with this Court on June 29, 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.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings in his February 3, 2015 decision:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 8, 2010, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following medically determinable impairments: remote history of binary stricture and stenting/removal; new onset of congestive hearing failure in 2005, high blood pressure, degenerative disc disease of the thoracic and lumbar spine, bilateral facet hypertrophy, and Anxiety Disorder (20 CFR 416.921 et seq.).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to significantly limit) the ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore, the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments (20 CFR 416.921 et seq.).
4. The vocational expert described the claimant's past relevant work as a furniture upholsterer (DOT 780.684-118, SVP 5, skilled, medium to heavy work) and a sales associate (DOT 279.357-05, SVP 3, semi-skilled, light to medium work). Alternatively, the claimant is able to perform all of her past relevant work based on the work-related limitations assessed by Dr. Goewey in Exhibit 21F.
5. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 8, 2010, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(c)).

[Tr. 21-31].

         III. DISABILITY ELIGIBILITY

         “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(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).

         Disability is evaluated pursuant to a five-step analysis ...


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