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Bouler v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 2, 2015

BETTY BOULER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM E. CASSADY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for supplemental security income benefits. The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court. (Docs. 18 & 20 ("In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings in this case, ... order the entry of a final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment proceedings.").) Upon consideration of the administrative record, plaintiff's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the arguments of counsel at the February 20, 2015 hearing before the Court, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[1]

Plaintiff alleges disability due to mild mental retardation, degenerative disc disease of the low back, obesity, and problems with her hands and feet. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 22, 2011, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disk disease with low back pain, problems with her feet and hands, obesity and mild mental retardation. She also has depression that I find is non-severe (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).
Under the third step, a determination must be made as to whether or not the impairment or impairments are of listing severity. The Medical Listings (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Appendix 1, Subpart P) outline the findings which must be present under each of the body systems for an impairment to be found disabling. No medical expert has concluded that the claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
...
The severity of the claimant's mental impairment does not meet or medically equal the criteria of listing... 12.05 for mental retardation.
...
Medical Listing 12.00A provides in pertinent part that the structure of the listing for mental retardation (12.05) is different from that of the other mental disorders listings. Listing 12.05 contains an introductory paragraph with the diagnostic description for mental retardation. It also contains four sets of criteria (paragraphs A through D). If your impairment satisfies the diagnostic description in the introductory paragraph and any one of the four sets of criteria, we will find that your impairment meets the listing. Paragraphs A and B contain criteria that describe disorders we consider severe enough to prevent your doing any gainful activity without any additional assessment of functional limitations. For paragraph C, we will assess the degree of functional limitation the additional impairment(s) imposes to determine if it significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, i.e., is a "severe" impairment(s), as defined in §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c). If the additional impairment(s) does not cause limitations that are "severe" as defined in §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c), we will not find that the additional impairment(s) imposes "an additional and significant work-related limitation of function, " even if you are unable to do your past work because of the unique features of that work. Paragraph D contains the same functional criteria that are required under paragraph B of the other mental disorders listings.
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). The claimant is able to toe walk but not able to heel walk. She ambulates without any difficulty. She is able to bend and touch her toes. She is able to squat and stand without difficulty. The claimant had the ability to understand, remember and carry out very short and simple instructions and could attend for two hour[] intervals. Contact with the general public should be infrequent and casual and not a usual part of the job. Changes to the work setting should be minimal and well structured. The claimant might need assistance with plans and goals that go beyond the simple and repetitive ones[.]
...
At the hearing, the claimant testified she was unable to work due to both mental and physical limitations. She contends she was in special education classes in school and repeated tenth grade. She has a driver's license but had to take the test five times and was given the oral examination. She has a checking account and is able to add and subtract.
...
School records were submitted indicating that the claimant was in special education classes for grades 10 and 11 for English and reading. In the first semester of the eleventh grade, her grades were English/reading-B; American History-B; Typing-D and math-B.
...
Ms. Bouler completed a Function Report-Adult in April 2011. On this form, she indicated she would spend her day bathing, making her bed, washing clothes, cooking, eating, watching television, cleaning and walking around outside in the yard. She stated she takes care of two other[] persons with washing and cooking but has no pets. She noted no problems with personal care and stated she needed no reminders for personal needs or grooming but needed to be reminded to take her medicine. She stated she prepares complete meals daily that take two hours. She listed house work and yard work that she does as cleaning, laundry and cooking but no yard work. She stated she cleans three times [a] week and does laundry one time a week. She needs encouragement to do these things when she is bending low and cleaning. She is able to go outside three times a week. She is able to drive and she is able to go out alone. She is able to shop for food, household goods and school clothes. She is able to shop about once a month for three hours. Ms. Bouler admitted that she was able to pay bills, count change and handle a savings account but did not have a checkbook. She listed her hobbies as watching television and does this daily. She stated she does not spend time with others and goes to the store on a regular basis. She does not need to be reminded to go [] places but sometimes needs to be accompanied. She has problems getting along with family and friends and snaps a lot. She identified problems as lifting, squatting, bending, standing, walking, kneeling, stair climbing, memory, completing tasks, concentration[, ] understanding, following instructions, using hands and ...

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