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York v. Berryhill

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

May 9, 2017

NANCY BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Sherone Dennise York (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et seq. On May 2, 2017, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 19). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Procedural History [2]

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for benefits on March 6, 2013, alleging disability beginning August 12, 2010, based on an amputated left arm from a motor vehicle accident, swelling in her leg, and headaches. (Doc. 14-1 at 11, 15). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Walter Lassiter, Jr. (hereinafter “ALJ”) on July 11, 2014. (Doc. 13-2 at 48). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her counsel and provided testimony related to her claims. (Doc. 13-2 at 50). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Doc. 13-2 at 72). On November 24, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Doc. 13-2 at 25). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 20, 2016. (Doc. 13-2 at 4). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated November 24, 2014, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). The parties waived oral argument on May 2, 2017 (Doc. 18) and agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         II. Issue on Appeal

         1. Whether the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff does not meet the criteria for Listing 12.05C?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on July 30, 1974 and was thirty-nine years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on July 11, 2014. (Doc. 14-1 at 11; Doc. 13-2 at 48). Plaintiff graduated from high school and completed one and a half years of college studies. (Doc. 14-2 at 149).

         Plaintiff worked from 1997 to 2007 as a stocker at Walmart until she lost her arm in a motor vehicle accident. (Doc. 14-2 at 149; Doc. 14 at 20; Doc. 14-1 at 3). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that she cannot work due to phantom pain in her arm, inability to lift, problems with balancing while standing, and swollen knees from obesity. (Doc. 13-2 at 59, 62-63, 65, 68-69).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[3] Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163, *4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).

         V. Statutory And Regulatory Framework

         An individual who applies for Social Security disability benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security ...

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