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Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 25, 2013

DANIEL JOHNSON o/b/o, VIRGINIA JOHNSON Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

KENNETH S. McHARGH, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 13). The issue before the undersigned is whether the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying Virginia Johnson's applications for a Period of Disability and Disability Insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423, and Supplemental Security Income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, conclusive.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.

I. INTRODUCTION & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 17, 2009, Virginia Johnson ("Johnson") protectively applied for a Period of Disability and Disability Insurance benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Tr. 163-67, 168-74). Johnson alleged she became disabled on February 28, 2007, due to suffering from hearing problems, panic attacks, migraines, depression, post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and neck problems. (Tr. 185-86). Johnson's Disability Insurance benefits expired on December 31, 2008. (Tr. 182).

The Social Security Administration denied Johnson's applications on initial review on July 24, 2009. (Tr. 117-19, 120-22). Her applications were also denied upon reconsideration on December 17, 2009. (Tr. 131-33, 134-36). Thereafter, Johnson requested a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the denial of her applications. (Tr. 137-41). The administration granted Plaintiff's request and scheduled a hearing. (Tr. 142-57).

On January 12, 2011, Administrative Law Judge Hilton Miller (the "ALJ") convened a hearing to evaluate Plaintiff's applications. (Tr. 40-69). Johnson, represented by counsel, appeared and testified before the ALJ. ( Id. ). A vocational expert, Kevin Yee, also appeared and testified at the proceeding. ( Id. ).

On January 20, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding Johnson was not disabled. (Tr. 22-34). After applying the five-step sequential analysis, [1] the ALJ determined Johnson retained the ability to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. ( Id. ). Subsequently, Johnson requested review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. (Tr. 17-18). However, the council denied Johnson's request making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5).

Johnson passed away on May 26, 2011. Her husband, Daniel Johnson, seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision on behalf of his late wife. Judicial review is proper pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. PERSONAL INFORMATION

Johnson, born on April 1, 1964, was 46 years old on the date of the hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 44, 113). Accordingly, at all times, she was considered as a "younger person" for Social Security purposes. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.963(c), 404.1563(c). Johnson graduated from high school and completed one year of college, during which time she studied medical transcription. (Tr. 45). Johnson's past experience includes work as a medical transcriber and file clerk. (Tr. 60).

III. ALJ's DECISION

The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law in his application of the five-step analysis:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 28, 2007, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, cervical myelopathy, and an affective disorder.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs and can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. Additionally, the claimant is limited to simple, repetitive, and routine tasks in a static environment with low production quotas and minimal contact with the public and supervisors.
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
...
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the ...

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