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Beasley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

March 6, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


         Plaintiff Jennifer Dunaway Beasley seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.


         In social security cases, courts

. . . review the Commissioner's decision for substantial evidence. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). . . . “We may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute our judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quotation and brackets omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, this Court must affirm, even if the proof preponderates against it.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted).

Mitchell v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2014).

         The burden of proving disability lies with the claimant. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005). The ALJ applies

. . . a five-step, “sequential” process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1). If an ALJ finds a claimant disabled or not disabled at any given step, the ALJ does not go on to the next step. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4). At the first step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). At the second step, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment or combination of impairments for which the claimant allegedly suffers is “severe.” Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). At the third step, the ALJ must decide whether the claimant's severe impairments meet or medically equal a listed impairment. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If not, the ALJ must then determine at step four whether the claimant has the RFC[1] to perform her past relevant work. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform her past relevant work, the ALJ must determine at step five whether the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. An ALJ may make this determination either by applying the Medical Vocational Guidelines or by obtaining the testimony of a [Vocational Expert (VE)].

Stone v. Comm'r. of Soc. Sec. Admin., 596 Fed.Appx., 878, 879 (11th Cir. 2015) (footnote added).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Beasley, who was 39 years old when her SSI application was filed and 41 when it was denied, alleges disability beginning June 13, 2013. Tr. 67, 183. She completed high school and completed one year of college, and has past work experience as a receptionist (secretary), a substitute teacher, and an insurance clerk. Tr. 74, 213, 223, 231-38. After a hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 12-25. He found that Beasley's chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, restless leg syndrome, idiopathic neuropathy, status post-lumbar hemilaminectomy with degenerative disc disease, congenital bilateral ankle condition status post-ankle fusions and triple arthrodesis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/bronchitis, migraine headaches, and generalized anxiety disorder constituted severe impairments but did not meet or medically equal a Listing. Tr. 14-16. Based on the evidence of record, the ALJ found that she retained the RFC for a limited subset of sedentary work:

.. . . except that [she] is limited to occasional lower extremity bilateral pedal control pushing or pulling, occasional bending, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing of ramps or stairs. [She] is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. [She] is precluded from exposure to extreme heat or cold, vibration or machinery that causes vibrations, and hazardous conditions such as unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, and uneven surfaces. [She] would be limited to occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants such as fumes, dusts, odors, and gases. In addition, [she] is limited to simple, routine tasks involving no more than simple, short instructions with simple work-related decisions with few work place changes. [She] would be limited to frequent interactions with the public, co-workers, and supervisors.

Tr. 16.

         Plaintiff, he determined, was capable of performing her past work as a receptionist (sedentary, semi-skilled work with an SVP of 4), as well as alternative jobs as a call-out operator, order clerk, and telephone clerk, all sedentary unskilled work with an SVP[2] of 2. Tr. 23-24. Beasley disagrees, arguing that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical opinion evidence and erred in evaluating her subjective pain testimony. Doc. 10.

         A. Medical ...

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