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Jones v. Berryhill

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

September 27, 2019

MELANIE ANN JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LILES C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On January 18, 2018, the Plaintiff Melanie Jones filed a complaint (Doc. 1) seeking judicial review of an adverse final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner filed an answer to the complaint on June 5, 2018. On August 20, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a brief in support of her position. (Doc. 11). The Commissioner then filed a brief in support of the decision on September 20, 2018. (Doc. 12). Therefore, this issue is ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff protectively filed for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on August 27, 2015. (R. 33). She alleged that her disability began the same day her claim was filed. Id. Her claim for benefits was subsequently denied on December 10, 2015, and she requested the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on December 14, 2015. Id. The Plaintiff appeared before ALJ Patrick Digby on October 12, 2016, in Florence, Alabama. Id. The Plaintiff testified and was questioned by both the ALJ and her attorney. (R. 102, 109). Additionally, vocational expert Dr. Jewel Euto testified at the hearing. (R. 120). The ALJ released his opinion on March 1, 2017. (R. 49). When he issued his opinion, the ALJ used the five-step evaluation process promulgated by the Social Security Administration to determine whether an individual is disabled. (R. 34). The ALJ made the following determinations:

1. The Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2020. (R. 35).
2. The Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 27, 2015, the alleged onset date of the disability. Id.
3. The Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: obesity, lumbar spine spondylolisthesis, and arthritic spinal changes. Id.
4. The Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. 41).
5. The Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567 and 416.927, except the Plaintiff can occasionally lift and carry ten pounds. The Plaintiff can sit, stand, and walk approximately six hours in an eight hour work day with customary work breaks; should be allowed to alternate position of sitting or standing every thirty minutes; can push/pull including operation of hand or foot controls up to ten pounds; can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. The Plaintiff cannot work on ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; should avoid all exposure to hazardous machinery and unprotected heights; crawl; cannot work in or around heavy vibratory jobs. Id.
6. The Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. 47).
7. The Plaintiff was born on September 27, 1974, and was 40 years old, which is defined as a younger individual, age 18-44, on the alleged onset date. Id.
8. The Plaintiff has at least a high school education and can communicate in English. Id.
9. A determination of transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability as the Medical-Vocational Rules support a finding that the Plaintiff is not disabled. Id.
10. With the Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are a significant number of jobs in the national ...

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