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Williams v. Berryhill

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

December 21, 2018

PYONG OK WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security Administration, Performing the Duties and Functions Not Reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EFPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pyong Ok Williams appeals the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act. Upon consideration of the briefs submitted by both parties, the record evidence, and the relevant statutory and case law, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS the Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED, this civil action be CLOSED, and a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB in July of 2017, alleging a disability onset date of October 28, 2013. Tr. (“R.”), pp. 159-60. Plaintiff's last insured date for purposes of the DIB application is December 31, 2018. R. 183. Plaintiff was fifty-nine years old on her alleged disability onset date. Id. Plaintiff applied for benefits based on allegations of stage three breast cancer and neuropathy. R. 187. Plaintiff has a twelfth grade education and completed some specialized job training, trade, or vocational school at Augusta Tech. R. 188. Prior to her alleged disability, Plaintiff had accrued relevant work history as a payroll clerk, accountant, and cost accountant. R. 16, 188.

         The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's applications initially, R. 67-75, and on reconsideration, R. 76-85. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), R. 98-99, and the ALJ held a hearing on March 3, 2017. R. 22-66. At the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, as well as from Mary L. Cornelius, M.S., a Vocational Expert (“VE”). Id. On March 29, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. 7-21.

         Applying the sequential process required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ found:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 28, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and asthma (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
3. 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 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).
4. The claimant has the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) with further limitation to lifting and carrying 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently; no standing or walking over an aggregate of 2 hours in an 8 hour workday; no more than occasional stooping, balancing, crouching, kneeling, or climbing of stairs or ramps; no crawling or climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no exposure to high ambient noise environment greater than standard office noise; and no concentrated exposure to dust, fumes, gases, odors, extremes of humidity, heat or cold. Thus, the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
5. Therefore, Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 28, 2013, through the date of the decision (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f)).

R. 22-28.

         When the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review, R. 1-6, the Commissioner's decision became “final” for the purpose of judicial review. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff then filed this civil action requesting reversal or remand of that adverse decision.

         Plaintiff argues the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to properly: (1) weigh the opinion evidence in determining Plaintiff's RFC; and (2) develop the record. See doc. no. 12 (“Pl.'s Br.”). The Commissioner maintains the decision to deny Plaintiff benefits is supported by ...


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