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Pendergrass v. Berryhill

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

March 23, 2018

NANCY HINES PENDERGRASS Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Christopher H. Steger, Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the denial by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) of her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. 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]. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 14] shall be DENIED, the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 20] shall be GRANTED, and the decision of the Commissioner shall be AFFIRMED. Judgment in favor of the DEFENDANT shall be entered.

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. [Tr. 165-68]. Section 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), provides for judicial review of a “final decision” of the Commissioner of the SSA (“Commissioner”). Plaintiff's claim was denied and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). [Tr. 87-89]. On May 1, 2015, following a hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 8-28]. On March 18, 2016, SSA's Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. [Tr. 1-7]. Thus, Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies, and the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review. Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking review in this Court on May 20, 2016, which the Commissioner answered. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the Commissioner filed a motion for summary judgment. Both motions are ripe for review.

         B. 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 Act through September 30, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and obesity (20 C.F.R. § 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 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
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 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) except the claimant is limited to posturals occasionally. The claimant should avoid ladders, ropes, scaffolds, heights, and dangerous machinery. The claimant requires a 30 minute stand/stretch option. Also, the claimant could understand, remember and carry out simple and detailed instructions. She could make work-related judgments typically required for semi-skilled work. She could respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers and work situations. The claimant could have contact with the general public on a frequent basis and with supervisors and coworkers on a frequent basis. Further, the claimant could deal with changes in a routine work setting on a frequent basis.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on April 7, 1973, and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. § 404.1564).
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 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from January 1, 2011, through the date of this decision. (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)).

[Tr. 13-23].

         C. Relevant Facts

         1. Plaintiff's Age, Education, and Past Work Experience

         At the time of the hearing before the ALJ on March 24, 2015, Plaintiff was 41 years old. She was 37 years old at the time of her alleged onset of disability on January 1, 2011.[2] She completed at least two years of college and has past relevant work as an assistant manager for a financial institution, a bank teller, an appliance salesperson, and in retail sales. [Tr. 32-33, 48-49, 52, 186, 302].

         2. 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.

         III. ...


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