Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Blevins Kennedy v. Berryhill

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

May 16, 2019

OLANDRA L. BLEVINS KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          T. MICHAEL PUTNAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Introduction

         The plaintiff, Olandra L. Blevins Kennedy, appeals the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (R. 75, 137-46), and a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Act. (R. 15). After the Social Security Administration denied her applications, Kennedy obtained a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Perry Martin. (R. 775-799). ALJ Martin subsequently found that Kennedy is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (R. 12-28). Next, Kennedy requested administrative review of the ALJ's Decision (R. 135-36) but the agency's Appeals Council denied her request. (R. 1-10). Kennedy timely pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The parties have consented to the full dispositive jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 626(c).

         Kennedy was 38 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision (R. 12), and has completed one-and-a-half years of college. (R. 201, 780-81). Kennedy's past relevant work experience is as a nursing assistant, a cashier, and a check cashier. (R. 795-96). She first claimed that she became disabled on January 1, 2014, then amended the alleged onset date to April 1, 2014. (R. 778, 784). Kennedy claims that she became disabled due to scoliosis, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety. (R. 17, 200).[1]

         When evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a determination of whether the claimant is "doing substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If she is, the claimant is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If she is not, the Commissioner next considers the effect of all of the claimant's physical and mental impairments combined. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(h). These impairments must be severe and must meet the durational requirements before a claimant will be found to be disabled. Id. The decision depends upon the medical evidence in the record. See Hart v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971). If the claimant's impairments are not severe, the analysis stops. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(h), 416.920(a)(4)(h). Otherwise, the analysis continues to step three, which is a determination of whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments fall within this category, she will be found disabled without further consideration. Id. If they do not, a determination of the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") will be made, and the analysis proceeds to the fourth step. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Residual functional capacity is an assessment, based on all relevant evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to do work despite his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a).

         The fourth step requires a determination of whether the claimant's impairments prevent her from returning to past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can still do her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If the claimant cannot do past relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth step. Id. Step five requires the court to consider the claimant's RFC, as well as the claimant's age, education, and past work experience, in order to determine if she can do other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, the claimant is not disabled. Id. The burden of demonstrating that other jobs exist which the claimant can perform is on the Commissioner; and, once that burden is met, the claimant must prove her inability to perform those jobs in order to be found to be disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999).

         Applying the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Kennedy has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the date of onset through the date of her decision. (R. 20). First, the ALJ determined that Kennedy meets the insured statutes requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2015. (R. 17). Second, the ALJ found that Kennedy has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2014, the alleged onset date.[2] (R. 17). Third, according the to the ALJ, Kennedy's scoliosis, obesity, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety are considered "severe" based on the requirements set forth in the regulations. (R. 17). Fourth, the ALJ determined that Kennedy "does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments" in the regulations. (R. 18). Fifth and finally, the ALJ found that Kennedy "has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). . . ." (R 20). However, the ALJ found that she should only "occasionally push or pull with her upper and lower extremities"; she "cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs." (R. 20). Kennedy may also "occasionally balance, kneel, crouch, stoop, and crawl"; but she "must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, cold, and concentrated exposure to vibration." (R. 20). "Additionally, the claimant should have no exposure to hazardous machinery or unprotected heights. During a regularly scheduled workday, or the equivalent thereof, the claimant can understand and remember short and simple instructions, but is unable to do so with detailed or complex instructions." (R. 21). The ALJ continued that Kennedy "is able to do simple, routine, repetitive tasks, but is unable to do so with detailed or complex tasks." (R. 21). Further, Kennedy "can have no more than occasional contact with the general public" and "can deal with changes in the workplace, if the changes are introduced occasionally and gradually, and are well explained." (R. 21).

         Next, the ALJ determined that Kennedy "is unable to perform any past relevant work" and that "[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 . . . ." (R. 27).[3]

         Standard of Review

         This court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards were applied. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Crawford v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec, 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439-40 (11th Cir. 1997)). The court approaches the factual findings of the Commissioner with deference, but applies close scrutiny to the legal conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996). The court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Id. "The substantial evidence standard permits administrative decision makers to act with considerable latitude, and 'the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being supported by substantial evidence.'" Parker v. Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J., dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if this court finds that the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's decision, the court must affirm if the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400. No. decision is automatic, however, for "despite this deferential standard [for review of claims] it is imperative that the Court scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached." Bridges v. Bowen, 815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987). Moreover, failure to apply the correct legal standards is grounds for reversal. See Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir. 1984).

         Discussion

         Kennedy alleges that the ALJ's decision should be reversed and remanded because: (1) the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion of Dr. Craig, Kennedy's treating physician, and (2) the ALJ failed to properly consider Kennedy's pain pursuant to the Eleventh Circuit's Three-part Pain Standard. (Doc. 12, p. 9).

         A brief discussion of Kennedy's medical history is necessary in order to put the ALJ's decision into context. Kennedy developed scoliosis as a child and underwent surgery to implant a Harrington rod. (R. 466, 789-90). Kennedy visited the emergency room in late 2012 complaining of episodes of anxiety and withdrawal due to running out of her anxiety medication. (R. 292, 296). On July 7, 2013, Kennedy visited the emergency room complaining of abdominal pain. (R. 300). She underwent surgery that same day to remove an inflamed ovary. (R. 307-08). Kennedy appeared at the emergency room several times after her surgery complaining of constipation. (R. 316-24). Kennedy was first prescribed Percocet 10-325mg after her surgery by Dr. Rodriguez. (R. 314). Kennedy visited the emergency room multiple times between January 9, 2013 and February 22, 2014 complaining of anxiety, hypertension issues, and pain. (R. 326-43).

         On April 26, 2014, Dr. May examined Kennedy for the purpose of providing information for a state disability determination. (R. 357). Dr. May reported that Kennedy was able to walk normally, squat, and has a slightly limited range of motion in her legs. (R. 360). Further, Dr. May opined that Kennedy's irritable bowel syndrome was likely due to her use of narcotics and "did not sound very ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.