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King v. Berryhill

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

January 25, 2019

LYNDA PATRICIA KING, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHRISTOPHER L. RAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Lynda Patricia King seeks judicial review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Disability Insurance (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

         I. GOVERNING STANDARDS

         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 F. App'x, 878, 879 (11th Cir. 2015) (footnote added).

         II. ANALYSIS

         King, who was 51 years old when her disability application was denied, alleges disability beginning July 2, 2012. Tr. 19, 79, 94. She has a limited education (11th grade) and past work experience as a nurse assistant, fast food cook, and hair stylist. Tr. 29, 67. After a hearing, ALJ John Mason issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 19-31. He found that King's bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, bilateral heel spurs, status post-rotator cuff repair, and depression constituted severe impairments but did not meet or medically equal a Listing. Tr. 21-24. Based on the evidence of record, the ALJ found that she retained the RFC for a subset of light work except that King

can have no constant repetitive handling and fine finger manipulation bilaterally; avoid overhead reaching bilaterally; never work with the public; occasionally have non-intensive interaction with co-workers and supervisors to accomplish non-transactional work steps.

Tr. 24.

         Plaintiff, he determined, was incapable of performing her past relevant work but could perform the requirements of representative work as a marker, cafeteria attendant, and cleaner, all light work with an SVP[2] of 2. Tr. 30. King disagrees, arguing that the ALJ failed to properly ...


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