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Makulski v. Berryhill

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

May 9, 2018

ANNETTE MARIE MAKULSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 12]. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 13 & 14] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18]. Annette Marie Makulski (“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.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 1, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits pursuant to Title II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and 1381 et seq., claiming a period of disability that began on February 14, 2013. [Tr. 109-110, 395-402]. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 172]. A hearing was held on April 9, 2015, and a second hearing on November 5, 2015. [Tr. 444-517]. On March 2, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 14-27]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review [Tr. 8-11], 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 5, 2017, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 2]. The parties have filed competing dispositive motions, and this matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. ALJ FINDINGS

         The ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 14, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; scoliosis; degenerative disc disease; status-post right arm fracture; hypertension; insomnia; major depressive disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; and substance abuse (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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that she can only occasionally perform postural activities. She can only frequently reach above shoulder level with her right arm. She should avoid frequent exposure to pulmonary irritants. She is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple and detailed instructions, but is limited to work that requires no interaction with the public and only occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors. She would do better in a job with few social demands among coworkers and supervisors. The claimant is limited to work that requires no more than occasional changes in the work setting.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on December 19, 1961 and was 51 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited 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 ...

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