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Kyle v. Berryhill

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

August 17, 2018

KIMBERLY D. KYLE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Kimberly D. Kyle 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 (“the Commissioner”) denying her claim for a Period of Disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), based on disability. 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. 21 (“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. 22. Upon consideration of the administrative record, Kyle's brief, the Commissioner's brief, all other documents of record, and oral argument, it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[1]


         On July 19, 2014, Kyle applied for a Period of Disability and DIB, under Title II of the Social Security Act, and on August 25, 2014, she applied for SSI, based on disability, under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383d, alleging disability beginning on August 1, 2013. (Tr. 147-51, 155-60). After her application was denied at the initial level of administrative review on October 31, 2014, Kyle requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 99-103). After a hearing was held before ALJ L. Dawn Pischek on February 12, 2016, she issued a decision denying Kyle's claims on January 11, 2017. (Tr. 37-65; 12-33). Kyle appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on October 20, 2017. (Tr. 1-6).

         After exhausting her administrative remedies, Kyle sought judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an answer and the social security transcript on March 8, 2018. (Docs. 10, 11). On April 6, 2018, Kyle filed a brief in support of her claim. (Doc. 12). The Commissioner filed her brief on May 18, 2018. (Doc. 13). Oral argument was held before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on August 8, 2018. (Doc. 20). The case is now ripe for decision.


         Kyle presents the following claim in this appeal:

         1. Whether the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to consider that Kyle's consistent effort to obtain pain relief enhanced her credibility and by mischaracterizing Kyle's testimony regarding her pain when considering her testimony. (Doc. 12 at pp. 2-3).


         Kyle was born on April 11, 1979, making her 35 years old at the time she filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 168). Kyle initially alleged disability due to nerve damage in her legs, herniated disc in her neck and back, aortic aneurysm, and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 172). She completed 11th grade in 1995, after having attended regular classes when she was in school. (Tr. 173). She has not completed any type of specialized job training, trade, or vocational school. (Id.). She has worked as a cashier, secretary, and housekeeper/janitor. (Tr. 173). She stated that she stopped working in or about 2013/2014 because of her condition. (Tr. 172-73).

         Kyle handles her own personal care. (Tr. 194-95). During the relevant period, she lived with her two children. (Tr. 193-94). She is able to cook, wash dishes, do light cleaning, drive a car, shop in stores, pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, and use a checkbook. (Tr. 194-96). Her hobbies include watching her boys play sports, fishing a few times a year, and playing on the computer. (Tr. 197). She attends church about twice a month and talks to people online every day. (Id.). She stated that her pain affects her ability to do these things and other things she did before her car accident in November of 2013. (Tr. 194-198). She stated on her Function Report that she has no limitations in completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following written and spoken instructions, paying attention, or getting along with others. (Tr. 198). She gets along great with authority figures and handles stress “ok, ” but does not handle changes in routine well. (Tr. 199).

         Kyle indicated at the hearing in February of 2016 that she cannot do her prior jobs because of the pain associated with her neck, arms, and hip. (Tr. 43-44, 49-50). After conducting the hearing and reviewing the submitted medical records, the ALJ made a determination that Kyle had not been under a disability during the relevant time period, and thus, was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 15-28).


         In her January 11, 2017 decision, the ALJ found that Kyle had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, left humerus fracture, and pelvis and ribcage fractures. (Tr. 17). She found that Kyle's chronic pain syndrome did not cause more than minimal limitation in her ability to perform basic mental work activities and was, therefore, not severe. (Tr. 19). The ALJ also found that her hypertension, chronic indwelling of an IVC filter, aneurysm of the thoracic aorta, splenic laceration, ...

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