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Gideon v. Berryhill

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

May 15, 2018

SABRINA GIDEON, Claimant,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Claimant, Sabrina Gideon, who is proceeding pro se, commenced this action on August 3, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, and thereby denying her claim for a period of disability, disability insurance, and supplemental security income benefits. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds that the Commissioner's ruling is due to be affirmed.

         The court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983).

         Briefs are not required from pro se parties in Social Security appeal cases, [1] and claimant did not file a supporting brief. Nevertheless, this court has carefully reviewed the entire record in reaching its determination of the merits of claimant's appeal.

         Claimant alleged that she became disabled on October 20, 2012, as a result of fibromyalgia, neck and shoulder blade paralysis, chronic urinary tract infections, chronic kidney infections, severe anemia, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.[2] The ALJ found that claimant suffered from the severe impairments of fibromyalgia, major depressive disorder, anxiety, degenerative disc disease, and degenerative joint disease.[3] Even so, she found that claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments.[4] Moreover, claimant retained the residual functional capacity

to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.9767(a) except for the additional restrictions described herein. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop, and kneel, but never crouch or crawl. She can use her bilateral upper extremities for constant reaching, handling, fingering, and feeling. She should avoid work settings with concentrated exposure to extreme cold or wetness, and she should not work around hazardous conditions, such as unprotected heights or moving machinery. The claimant can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions but not those that are more detailed or complex. She can adapt to workplace changes that are infrequent and gradually introduced. The claimant can occasionally interact with members of the public and frequently interact with coworkers and supervisors. She can sustain attention and concentration for two-hour blocks to complete an eight-hour workday with customary breaks.

Tr. 28. The ALJ then relied upon vocational expert testimony to determine that a person of claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.[5] Accordingly, the ALJ found that claimant was not under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from October 20, 2012, the alleged onset date, through the date of the decision.[6]

         Claimant requested the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision, [7] but the Appeals Council denied her request on June 9, 2017, stating that there was “no reason under our rules to review the Administrative Law Judge's decision.”[8] The Appeals Council also stated that it had not considered additional evidence submitted by claimant. Part of that evidence was duplicative of evidence already in the administrative record, and the remainder of the evidence did not “show a reasonable probability that it would change the outcome of the decision.”[9] The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner.[10]

         Upon review of the entire record, the court concludes that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence and in accordance with applicable law. First, the ALJ correctly evaluated claimant's eligibility under Listings 12.04 and 12.06. Both Listings require a claimant to show at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, appx. 1, §§ 12.04B, 12.06B (listings) (“B criteria”). The ALJ found that claimant experienced no more than moderate restriction of activities of daily living, and no more than moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning, concentration, persistence, or pace. To support that finding, the ALJ stated that the “record documents very limited mental health treatment, ” and claimant's pharmacy records “reflect only intermittent use of antidepressant medication.”[11] The ALJ also found that claimant had never experienced extended episodes of decompensation, because there was no evidence “that claimant has ever required any inpatient or intensive psychiatric treatment or experienced any prolonged episodes of exacerbated emotional symptoms.”[12] The record supports those conclusions.

         Claimant's records from Cooper Green Pharmacy reflect that long periods of time - sometimes a year or more - would go by before claimant refilled her prescription for anti-depressant medication.[13] Additionally, while claimant's function reports reflect some limitations in daily activities, social functioning, and concentration, those limitations were not marked. Claimant reported that she could care for her personal needs, remember to take her medication, prepare meals, drive, go out alone, shop, handle money, attend Bible study, and care for her children.[14]Despite the fact that state agency psychiatrist Dr. Robert Estock stated on May 28, 2014, that claimant had experienced “one or two” extended episodes of decompensation, [15] there simply is no evidence that claimant has been unable to live outside a ...


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