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Sellers v. Berryhill

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

September 11, 2017

SANDRA L. SELLERS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Sandra L. Sellers (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 25, 2017, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 20). 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 a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on April 29, 2013, alleging disability beginning December 12, 2012, based on bipolar disorder, PTSD, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, and anxiety. (Doc. 13-2 at 6, 10). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge David Murchison (hereinafter “ALJ”) on August 27, 2014 (Doc. 12-2 at 34). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her counsel and provided testimony related to her claims. (Id.). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Doc. 12-2 at 50). On November 7, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Doc. 12-2 at 29). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 30, 2016. (Doc. 12-2 at 2). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated November 7, 2014, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was conducted on June 1, 2017 (Doc. 22), and the parties 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

         Whether substantial evidence supports the RFC for a range of medium work with the stated restrictions?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on February 2, 1957, and was fifty-seven years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on August 27, 2014. (Doc. 12-2 at 34, 39; Doc. 13-2 at 6). Plaintiff graduated from high school. (Doc. 12-2 at 39).

         Plaintiff worked from 1998 to 2012 as a switchboard operator at Industrial Valve and from 1995 to 1998 as a switchboard operator at Spring Hill Memorial Hospital. (Doc. 12-2 at 40; Doc. 13-1 at 15-17; Doc. 13-2 at 11, 46). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that she quit work because she felt she was being bullied at her workplace, and it caused her to be depressed and manic. (Doc. 12-2 at 40). She testified that she cannot work now due to her “bipolar disease, ” panic attacks, depression, confusion, and inability to concentrate.[3] (Doc. 12-2 at 41, 49). Plaintiff also testified that she takes medicine for bipolar disorder and goes to counseling at Alta Pointe, both of which have helped. (Doc. 12-2 at 41, 45).

         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.[4] 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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