United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Teresia Edmonds (“Plaintiff” or
“Edmonds”) brings this action pursuant to Section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”),
seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her claims
for a period of disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), disabled widow's benefits
(“DWB”), and supplemental security income.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on the
court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by
the parties, the court finds that the decision of the
Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
filed applications for DIB and DWB on February 24, 2014. (Tr.
67, 91). She also filed an application for supplemental
security income on February 6, 2014. (Tr. 79). In both of her
applications, Plaintiff alleged her disability began on June
28, 2009. (Tr. 67, 79, 92). Plaintiff's initial
applications were denied by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) on May 9, 2014. (Tr. 78,
90, 102). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge on June 11, 2014. (Tr. 123). The
hearing was set for December 7, 2015 with Administrative Law
Judge Renee Blackmon Hagler (“the ALJ”). (Tr.
133). In her decision dated January 12, 2016, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability
within the meaning of Sections 216(i), 223(d), and
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act from June 28, 2009
through January 12, 2016. (Tr. 33). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 11,
2016. (Tr. 1-5). This denial was the final decision of the
Commissioner, and therefore a proper subject for this
court's appellate review.
was born on August 19, 1960, and was 48 at the time of her
alleged onset date. (Tr. 67). She alleges that she has been
disabled since that time due to emotional stress and
arthritis. (Tr. 67, 79, 92). Plaintiff has a high school
education and her last employment as a Walmart customer
service representative ended on February 5, 2009. (Tr.
44-45). She quit her job with Walmart after her son was
diagnosed with autism. (Tr. 261). Plaintiff alleges that
during her time at Walmart, she experienced pain in her back
and would be limping by the end of the day. (Tr. 52).
did not seek medical treatment until April 12, 2014, when she
went in for a consultative physical examination with Dr.
Ronald Borlaza complaining of anxiety and chronic pain in her
lower back, right thigh, and groin. (Tr. 25, 260). Dr.
Borlaza noted that Plaintiff could perform common household
chores, including washing dishes, cleaning, doing laundry,
cooking, vacuuming, sweeping, and making her bed. (Tr. 260).
Dr. Borlaza performed a physical examination and diagnosed
Plaintiff with chronic right thigh and groin pain, chronic
low back pain, and anxiety. (Tr. 263). He concluded that
Plaintiff had no limitations for standing and sitting, had a
maximum walking limitation of 6 to 8 hours, and could lift
100 pounds occasionally and 50 pounds frequently. (Tr. 263).
also underwent a consultative psychological evaluation with
Dr. Mary Arnold on April 15, 2014. (Tr. 26, 266). Dr. Arnold
found that Plaintiff was alert, had a subdued mood and
“congruent affect, ” and based on her global
assessment of functioning (GAF) level did not experience
anything greater than moderate functional deficits. (Tr. 26,
267-68). Plaintiff told Dr. Arnold that she was able to clean
the house, do laundry, take her son to school, run errands,
and shop. (Tr. 267). Dr. Arnold evaluated Plaintiff as having
a global assessment of functioning (GAF) level of 56,
indicating that Plaintiff could have moderate difficulty in
social, occupational, or school functioning. (Tr. 26, 268).
April 23, 2014 Plaintiff visited Dr. Rommel Go to establish
care. (Tr. 26, 272). She reported experiencing depression,
anxiety, and insomnia. (Tr. 274). Dr. Go reported that there
was no observed “anxiety, delusion, loose associations,
flight of thought, stressed faces and or weeping.” (Tr.
274). Dr. Go prescribed Plaintiff medication, which
ostensibly began to control Plaintiff's symptoms. (Tr.
2014, Plaintiff saw Dr. Raymond Fernandez, who conducted an
extensive examination. (Tr. 301). Dr. Fernandez found that
Plaintiff had no depression, anxiety, or agitation, but
suffered from hypertensive heart disease and possible aortic
stenosis. (Tr. 307).
under the Act is determined using a five-step test. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. First, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial gainful
activity” is work activity that involves doing
significant physical or mental activities for pay or profit.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1572. Work activity may be considered
substantial even if it is part-time or if the claimant does
less, gets paid less, or has less responsibility than when
she worked before. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a). Even if no
profit is realized, work activity may still be considered
gainful so long as it is the kind of work usually done for
pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(b). If the ALJ finds
that the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful
activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe
medical impairment or a combination of impairments that is
severe. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, then she may not claim disability. Id.
If the impairment is not expected to result in death, the
claimant must also meet the 12-month duration requirement. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1509.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1525, and
404.1526. If the claimant meets or equals a listed impairment
and meets the duration requirement, she will be found
disabled without considering age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).
claimant does not meet the requirements for disability under
the third step, she may still be found disabled under steps
four and five of the analysis. The ALJ must first determine
the claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which refers to the claimant's
ability to work notwithstanding her impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). In the fourth step, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the
claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, then
the claimant is ...