United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Valerie Denice Wooley brings this action, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her claim for a
period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act). 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. 19 (“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. 20. Upon
consideration of the administrative record, Wooley's
brief, the Commissioner's brief, and oral argument
presented at the January 9, 2019 hearing before the
undersigned Magistrate Judge, it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be
applied for a period of disability and DIB, under Title II of
the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 - 425, on August 14,
2015, alleging disability beginning on May 26, 2011. (Tr.
138-39). Her application was denied at the initial level of
administrative review on September 30, 2015. (Tr. 49-55). On
November 4, 2015, Wooley requested a hearing by an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 69-70). Wooley appeared
at a hearing before the ALJ on March 10, 2017. (Tr. 26-48).
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Wooley
was not under a disability during the applicable time period
on June 22, 2017. (Tr. 10-18). Wooley appealed the ALJ's
decision to the Appeals Council, and, on February 12, 2018,
the Appeals Council denied her request for review of the
ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).
exhausting her administrative remedies, Wooley sought
judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an
answer and the social security transcript on July 30, 2018.
(Docs. 10, 11). Both parties filed briefs setting forth their
respective positions. (Docs. 13, 14). Oral argument was held
before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on January 9, 2019.
(Doc. 21). The case is now ripe for decision.
CLAIMS ON APPEAL
alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny her benefits is
in error for the following reasons:
1. The ALJ erred by failing to retain a medical expert to
determine the onset date of Plaintiff's impairments; and
2. The ALJ erred by failing to find Wooley's depression
and anxiety to be severe impairments.
(Doc. 13 at pp. 1-2).
was born on December 27, 1968 and was 46 years old at the
time she filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 32). Wooley
alleged disability due to inflammatory arthritis, back pain,
hand pain, shoulder pain, severe depression, and anxiety.
(Tr. 40, 150). She did not graduate from high school, but she
did obtain a GED. (Tr. 32). Her most recent jobs were as an
office cleaner at a law firm and an office manager for a home
builder. (Tr. 35). She is computer literate. (Tr. 35-36).
Wooley claimed disability commencing on May 26, 2011 based on
her decision that she could not push herself any further.
(Tr. 34-35; 150). Wooley testified that she is able to bathe,
dress, and groom herself. (Tr. 36). Wooley testified at the
hearing on March 10, 2017 that she is primarily sedentary
during the day, only folding clothes while sitting and
driving to her sister's house about twice a week. (Tr.
36-37). Wooley's date last insured was March 31, 2014.
(Tr. 10, 155). After conducting a hearing, the ALJ made a
determination that Wooley was not under a disability at any
time from May 26, 2011, the alleged onset date, through March
31, 2014, the date last insured, and thus, was not entitled
to benefits. (Tr. 10-18).
considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following
findings in his June 22, 2017 decision that are relevant to
the issues presented:
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had
the following severe impairments: spinal disorders and