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Allison v. Berryhill

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

June 30, 2017

CAROLYN ALLISON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          P. BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Carolyn Allison brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), based on disability. 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. (Doc. 19 (“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, Allison's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the arguments of counsel at the May 10, 2017, hearing before this Court, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[2]

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Allison applied for a Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits, under Title II of the Social Security Act, on May 17, 2013, and applied for SSI, based on disability, under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383d, on June 6, 2013. (Tr. 287-300). Her application was denied at the initial level of administrative review on August 28, 2013. (Tr. 225-36). On September 16, 2013, Allison requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 237-50). After a hearing on November 5, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Allison was not under a disability from the date the application was filed through the date of the decision, May 29, 2015. (Tr. 108-29). Allison appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review of the ALJ's decision on June 17, 2016. (Tr. 1-6).

         After exhausting her administrative remedies, Allison sought judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an answer and the social security transcript on November 21, 2016. (Docs. 11, 12). After both parties filed briefs setting forth their respective positions, the Court conducted a hearing on this matter on May 10, 2017. (Docs. 14, 15). The case is now ripe for decision.

         II. CLAIMS ON APPEAL

         Allison raises three claims of alleged error made by the ALJ in her Decision:

1) the ALJ erred in failing to consider Allison's seven severe impairments in combination;
2) the ALJ erred in failing to link the Residual Functional Capacity (FRC) assessment to the evidence of record; and
3) the ALJ erred in failing to elicit vocational expert testimony regarding the RFC she assigned to Allison.

(Doc. 14 at p. 1).

         III. BACKGROUND FACTS

         Allison was born on February 11, 1965, and was 48 years old at the time she filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 27). Allison initially alleged disability due to left shoulder problems, left foot problems, degenerative joint disease, diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, hypertension, depression, back problems, sinus problems, and left eye problems. (Tr. 331). Allison graduated from Southside High School in 1982, and she completed college majoring in business management and minoring in computer science in 1988. (Tr. 136, 332). Allison has worked as a cook and a computer and cell phone programmer. (Tr.136-39). She engages in normal daily activities; such as, personal care, cooking meals, taking walks, going to scheduled doctor's appointments, visiting the elderly, and visiting with and helping her mother. (Tr. 341).

         After conducting a hearing, the ALJ found that Allison had the following severe impairments: cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease, mild degenerative joint disease of knee, diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension, right shoulder capsulitis, and status post subtalar fusion. (Tr. 113). She further determined that none of these impairments or combination of impairments met or equaled a listing. (Tr. 115). The ALJ assessed Allison's RFC and found that she could perform light work, with additional exertional, postural, environmental, and mental limitations. Taking into consideration these limitations, her age, education, and work experience, she found that Allison could perform work existing in the national economy. (Tr. 116-24). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Allison was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 125).

         IV. ALJ'S DECISION

         The portion of the ALJ's Decision that is relevant to the issues presented is as follows:

         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).

The claimant has cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease, which is evaluated under Medical Listing 1.04. However the requirements of this listing are not met….
The claimant's mild degenerative joint disease of knee is not a listed impairment. The undersigned has considered Medical Listing 1.00B(1) and the requirements are not met…. This provision of 1.02 and 1.03 notwithstanding, inflammatory arthritis is evaluated under 14.09. Under Medical Listing 14.09, the claimant does not experience repeated manifestation or inflammatory arthritis, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level: 1) limitation with activities of daily living, 2) limitation in maintaining social functioning, or 3) limitation with completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.
The undersigned has reviewed the applicable listing for the claimant's diabetes mellitus Medical Listing (9.00B5). As there is no specific listing for this impairment, based on the undersigned 's review of the evidence, her impairment does not meet or equal any listed impairment.
The undersigned has reviewed the applicable listing for the claimant's obesity Medical Listing (1.00 Q). As there is no specific listing for this impairment, based on the undersigned's review of the evidence, her impairment does not meet or equal any listed impairment.
The undersigned has reviewed the applicable listing for the claimant's hypertension Medical Listing (4.00HJ). As there is no specific listing for this impairment, based on the undersigned's review of the evidence, her impairment does not meet or equal any listed impairment.
The claimant's right shoulder capsulitis is not a listed impairment. The undersigned has considered Medical Listing 1.02 B and the requirements are not met, as the claimant does not experience significant inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively, as defined in 1.00B2c.
The claimant's status post subtalar fusion is not a listed impairment. The undersigned has considered Medical Listing 1.02A and the requirements are not met, as the claimant does not experience significant inability to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.
The undersigned has carefully considered the claimant's impairments. Per the totality of the evidence the claimant's impairments, singularly or combined, do ...

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