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Morrisette v. Berryhill

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

May 25, 2018

AMIE L. MORRISETTE, 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

          P. BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for supplemental security income benefits. 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. (Docs. 21 & 23 (“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, Plaintiff's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and the parties' arguments at the May 9, 2018 hearing before the undersigned, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[2]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on February 7, 2014, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 1994. (See Tr. 229-41.) Morrisette's claim was initially denied on May 23 or 27, 2014 (compare Tr. 81 with Tr. 97-100) and, following Plaintiff's May 28, 2014 written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (see Tr. 101-03), an initial hearing was conducted before an ALJ on November 19, 2015 (see Tr. 59), followed by a second hearing on March 10, 2016 (Tr. 46) and a third and final hearing on June 8, 2016 (Tr. 35-45). On July 6, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the claimant was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to supplemental security income benefits. (Tr. 20-29.) More specifically, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth step of the five-step sequential evaluation process and determined that Morrisette retains the residual functional capacity to perform those medium, unskilled jobs identified by the vocational expert (“VE”) during the administrative hearing (compare Id. at 28 with Tr. 41-43). On July 27, 2016, the Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council (Tr. 226); the Appeals Council denied Morrisette's request for review on June 1, 2017 (Tr. 1-3). Thus, the hearing decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to diabetes, hypertension, seizure disorder, obesity, major depressive disorder, PTSD, somatic syndrome disorder, and depression due to another medical condition. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made the following relevant findings:

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: hypertension, diabetes mellitus, seizure disorder, obesity, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), somatic symptom disorder, and depression due to another medical condition (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
. . .
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
. . .
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except she should avoid all exposure to dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. She cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds and she cannot crawl. She can occasionally kneel and crouch. She can understand, remember and carry out short and simple instructions on an unlimited basis. She cannot understand, remember and carry out detailed instructions. She can occasionally interact/associate with the general public, coworkers, and supervisors. While the claimant has more than a slight limitation in the ability to respond appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in a routine work setting, she can do so at a satisfactory level.
. . .
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
. . .
6. The claimant was born on April 18, 1966, and was 47 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely ...

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