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Hicks v. Berryhill

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

May 3, 2018

ROBIN HICKS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


         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. 20 & 21] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 22 & 23]. Robin Hicks (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”), the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (“the Commissioner”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's motion and GRANT the Commissioner's motion.


         On July 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits pursuant to XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability that began on November 1, 2013, the amended onset date. [Tr. 46-47, 187-92, 202]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 139]. A hearing was held on November 6, 2015. [Tr. 42-95]. On January 27, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 23-37]. 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 April 28, 2017, 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.


         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 2, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obesity, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) of the right upper extremity; low back pain; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); mood disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; she can only frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; and only occasionally crawl. Handling with her bilateral upper extremities is limited to frequently. She cannot tolerate exposure to unprotected heights or open flames; cannot operate moving machinery or motor vehicles; and cannot tolerate exposure to environmental irritants, such as fumes, odors, dust chemical fumes, and gasses or work in poorly ventilated areas. The claimant is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks in an environment free of fast-paced production requirements; she can perform work involving only simply work-related decisions with few, if any workplace changes; and can have only occasional interaction with the public, coworkers and supervisors.
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on November 4, 1961 and was 51 years old, which is defined as closely approaching advanced age, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. 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).
9. 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 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since July 2, 2013, the date the ...

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