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Tubbs v. Saul

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

June 20, 2019

TERESA TUBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, 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. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. 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. (See Docs. 26 & 28 (“In accordance with 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, and the Commissioner's brief, [2] it is determined that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be affirmed.[3]

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on July 20, 2015 and a separate application for disability insurance benefits on July 23, 2015, both applications alleging disability beginning on May 19, 2015. (See Tr. 706-17.) Tubbs' claims were initially denied on November 10, 2015 (Tr. 618-21; see also Tr. 626-35) and, following Plaintiff's December 2, 2015 request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (see Tr. 636-37), a hearing was conducted before an ALJ on April 7, 2017 (Tr. 28-58). On October 20, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the claimant was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, or supplemental security income. (Tr. 10-23.) More specifically, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth step of the five-step sequential evaluation process and determined that Tubbs retains the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of sedentary work and those sedentary jobs identified by the vocational expert (“VE”) during the administrative hearing (compare Id. at 15-22 with Tr. 50-51 & 53-55). And, ultimately, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 8, 2018 (Tr. 1-3). Thus, the hearing decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to right knee pain, status-post ORIF, post-traumatic arthritis, depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder. The ALJ made the following relevant findings:

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: disorders of the knee (status post open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF)), depressive disorder and anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567([a]) and 416.967([a]). Further, the claimant can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or ramps and stairs. She can occasionally kneel, crouch and crawl. She can never work at unprotected heights or around hazardous moving mechanical parts. Further, she can frequently reach in all directions using the left and right upper extremities and frequently handle, finger and feel with the left and right hand. She needs a cane for walking on uneven surfaces and for balancing and needs an option to sit and stand at will. She is limited to performing simple, routine tasks and making simple work-related decisions. She can respond appropriately to the public occasionally. The claimant's time off task can be accommodated by normal breaks.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on May 12, 1969 and was 46 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. 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 (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 19, 2015, through the date of this decision ...

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