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Anderson v. Berryhill

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

May 15, 2018

JENNIFER ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jennifer Anderson 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 denying her claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. 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. 14 (“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.”); see also Doc. 16 (order of reference)). Upon consideration of the administrative record, Plaintiff's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the parties' arguments at the May 9, 2018 hearing before the undersigned, the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[2]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on April 24, 2014, alleging disability beginning on April 6, 2014. (See Tr. 148-55.) Anderson's claims were initially denied on June 24, 2014 (Tr. 92-101) and, following Plaintiff's August 12, 2014 written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (see Tr. 104-05), a hearing was conducted before an ALJ on November 16, 2015 (Tr. 44-63). On August 29, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the claimant was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, or supplemental security income. (Tr. 22-38.) More specifically, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth step of the five-step sequential evaluation process and determined that Anderson retains the residual functional capacity to perform those light jobs identified by the vocational expert (“VE”) during the administrative hearing (compare Id. at 37 with Tr. 60-61). On October 11, 2016, the Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council (Tr. 145); the Appeals Council denied Anderson's request for review on July 26, 2017 (Tr. 1-3). Thus, the hearing decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to affective disorder, personality disorder, obesity, diabetes mellitus, back and hip pain, and right-sided weakness. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

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).


5. 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 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; can have no exposure to unprotected heights/hazardous machinery; can perform no commercial driving; can have occasional exposure to chemicals, fumes, odors, and gases; is limited to simple routine tasks; and can have occasional interaction with the public.


6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).


7. The claimant was born on June 8, 1970, and was 43 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).


8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).


9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).


10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR ...

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