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Logan v. Berryhill

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

February 27, 2019

SHELIA A. LOGAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Shelia A. Logan (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et seq. On October 12, 2018, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 21). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Procedural History [1]

         Plaintiff filed her application for benefits on November 17, 2014, alleging disability beginning August 3, 2014, based on heart failure, hypertension, coronary artery disease (CAD), hypothyroidism, and glaucoma. (Doc. 8 at 147-49, 164, 168). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Thomas M. Muth II (hereinafter “ALJ”) on August 8, 2016. (Id. at 37). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her attorney and provided testimony related to her claims. (Id. at 41). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 50). On January 13, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 19). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 25, 2017. (Id. at 5). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated January 13, 2017, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was conducted on November 27, 2018. (Doc. 25). This case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         II. Issues on Appeal

         1. Whether substantial evidence supports the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) for a range of light work with the stated restrictions?

         2. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to resolve an apparent conflict between the vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”)?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on January 28, 1963, and was fifty-three years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on August 8, 2016. (Doc. 8 at 37, 164). Plaintiff did not graduate from high school, but she obtained her GED. (Id. at 41).

         Plaintiff last worked from 2008 to 2011 for Hinkle Metal and Supply Company as a customer service/parts representative.[2] (Id. at 42). Prior to that, from 2001 to 2004, she performed the same type of work for Associated Equipment Company of Delaware. (Id.).

         Plaintiff testified that she can no longer work because she gets fatigued, short-winded, dizzy, and has pain in her legs when she stands or walks for more than fifteen minutes. (Id. at 43-45). Her treating physician recommended exercise and changing the dosage of her blood pressure medication. (Id. at 45). Plaintiff further testified that her blood pressure varies throughout the day, and when it is low, it makes her feel tired and unable to concentrate. (Id. at 45-46). Plaintiff also testified that this occurs most days and usually lasts for about an hour. (Id. at 46-47). According to Plaintiff, her doctor recommended testing for peripheral artery disease in her legs because of her leg pain, but she has been unable to have the testing because she has no insurance. (Id. at 47).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[3]Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163, *4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).

         V. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         An individual who applies for Social Security disability benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security ...

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