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Robinson v. Berryhill

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

October 16, 2019

KRISTY ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kristy Robinson (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her claims for a period of disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.

         I. Proceedings Below

         On February 27, 2016 Plaintiff protectively applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging disability as of July 1, 2011. (R. 137). The Social Security Administration ("SSA") initially denied Plaintiff's application on April 8, 2016. (R. 84). On June 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. 88). That request was granted (R. 88), and Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Perry Martin on October 11, 2017. (R. 109).

         On February 13, 2018 the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, finding Plaintiff “has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from February 27, 2016 through the date of this decision.” (R. 16). After the Appeals Council ("AC") denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (R. 1), the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, and, therefore, a proper subject for this court's review.

         II. Facts

         Plaintiff was 32 years old as of her application date. (R. 73). She has a high school education (R. 158), and worked for a few months in 2004 and 2005 and a few more months in 2011. (R. 48-5, 143). Plaintiff initially alleged that she could not work due to HIV, panic attacks, and chronic migraines. (R. 157). In addition to HIV, panic attacks, and chronic migraines, she later alleged she experiences insomnia, depression, anxiety, and digestive issues (R. 176).

         In May 2015, Plaintiff presented to Dr. Rashundra Hopkins of the Kirklin Clinic. (R. 405). The Kirklin Clinic documents indicate Plaintiff was diagnosed as Bipolar and prescribed Lithium and Seroquel. (Id.).

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Christina Muzny at the Kirklin Clinic on February 16, 2016. (R. 800). Dr. Muzny indicated that Plaintiff has a history of persisting migraines which had worsened since an assault by a former partner. (Id.). Dr. Munzy noted Plaintiff's migraines to be “daily and severe.” (Id.). Dr. Munzy further indicated in her notes that Plaintiff suffers from chronic insomnia and is prescribed Amitriptyline. (R. 338).

         On the same day, Plaintiff saw Dr. Leigh Medaris of the Kirklin Clinic, who diagnosed Plaintiff with generalized anxiety disorder. (R. 800).

         On March 26, 2016, Dr. David Faber II of the Kirklin Clinic diagnosed Plaintiff with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and referred Plaintiff to therapy, increased her Amitriptyline dosage, and added Escitalopram to her prescribed medications. (R. 354-55).

         III. ALJ Decision

         Disability under the Act is determined under a five-step test. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial work activity” is work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a). “Gainful work activity” is work that is done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(b). If the ALJ finds that the claimant engages in substantial gainful activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Second, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or a combination of medical impairments that significantly limits the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment, the claimant may not claim disability. Id. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526. If such criteria are met, the claimant is declared disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).

         If the claimant does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be declared disabled under the third step, the ALJ may still find disability under the next two steps of the analysis. The ALJ must first determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which refers to the claimant's ability to work despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). In the fourth step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has the RFC to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant is determined to be capable of performing past relevant work, then the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id. If the ALJ finds the claimant unable to perform past relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). In the last part of the analysis, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to perform any other work commensurate with her RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g). ...


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