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Robertson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 28, 2017

NICOLE MARIE ROBERTSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE J. LIMBERT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Nicole Marie Robertson (“Plaintiff”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). ECF Dkt. #1. In her brief on the merits, filed on December 2, 2016, Plaintiff asserts that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in finding that she did not meet Listing 12.05C. ECF Dkt. #15 at 8-12. On February 13, 2017, Defendant filed a response brief. ECF Dkt. #18. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.

         For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the ALJ and dismisses the instant case in its entirety with prejudice.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed her application for SSI in February 2013. ECF Dkt. #12 (“Tr.”) at 170.[2] In her application, Plaintiff alleges disability beginning on October 1, 2006. Id. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 67-100. Following the denial, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on April 1, 2015. Id. at 42. On June 11, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for SSI. Id. at 13. Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Id. at 1. Accordingly, the decision issued by the ALJ on June 11, 2015, stands as the final decision.

         On July 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. Plaintiff filed a brief on the merits on December 2, 2016. ECF Dkt. #15. Defendant filed a response brief on February 13, 2017. ECF Dkt. #18. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.

         II. SUMMARY OF RELEVANT PORTIONS OF THE ALJ'S DECISION

         In the decision issued on June 11, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 7, 2013, the date of her application for SSI. Tr. at 18. Continuing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: cervical spondylosis; rediculitis; osteoarthritis of the left knee; seizure disorder; obesity; asthma; diabetes mellitus; borderline intellectual functioning; depressive disorder (not otherwise specified); and a learning disability. Id. The ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id.

         In making this finding, the ALJ discussed Listing 12.05C, stating that Plaintiff did not meet the criteria of Listing 12.05C because she did not have a valid verbal, performance, of full scale IQ of sixty through seventy and a physical or mental impairment imposing an additional and significant limitation of function. Id. at 21. The ALJ indicated that to satisfy the criteria of Listing 12.05C, a claimant must have sub-average intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifesting before age twenty-two. Id. at 21-22. After articulating the requirements of Listing 12.05C, the ALJ determined that despite her full scale IQ score of sixty-seven, Plaintiff testified that she worked when she was younger while in school. Id. at 22. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff had worked at Ryan's, McDonald's, and Dollar General, and that she was able to prepare salads and operate a fryer. Id. Continuing, the ALJ indicated that Plaintiff had no problems performing the multi-step task of hooking a trailer up to a four-wheeler and hauling wood. Id. Additionally, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff: was raising two children; performed simple cooking and household chores; had the ability to mow the lawn; and cared for her neighbor's horses. Id. Further, the ALJ indicated that although Plaintiff testified that she was unable to work due to concentration and memory problems, as well as problems counting change, she reported to the consultative examiner that she did not want to work unless she was doing something that she liked. Id. The ALJ also noted that Plaintiff told her mental health clinician that she would like to go to work. Id.

         After considering the record, that ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except that Plaintiff: could frequently push or pull with the upper extremities; could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; could occasionally kneel, crouch, or crawl; could frequently climb ramps and stairs; could frequently stoop; could not drive commercially; was limited to occasional exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, and irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases; could never use hazardous machinery or be exposed to unprotected heights; was limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks; was limited to work in a low-stress job, defined as only occasional changes in the work setting; and was limited to work allowing her to be off task up to five percent of the workday. Tr. at 22.

         When discussing Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ addressed a functional capacity evaluation (“FCE”) Plaintiff underwent on April 23, 2013. Tr. at 25. The ALJ indicated that the FCE report stated that Plaintiff was able to: lift fifteen pounds from the floor to her shoulder; lift twenty pounds from the floor to her waist; and lift twenty pounds from her waist to her shoulder on an occasional basis. Id. Continuing, the ALJ stated that the FCE report indicated that Plaintiff demonstrated the ability to sit for forty minutes at a time and stand for forty minutes at a time. Id. The ALJ then found that the FCE report showed that Plaintiff had no significant functional limitations. Id. Next, the ALJ indicated that Plaintiff's treating physician, Robert Herbert, D.O., accepted the findings and limitations from the FCE essentially indicating that Plaintiff could perform light work. Id. The ALJ assigned this portion of Dr. Herbert's opinion great weight.[3] Id. at 25 (citing Tr. at 527-28).

         Next, the ALJ indicated that Plaintiff had no past relevant work, was a younger individual on the date the application was filed, had at least a high school education and was able to communicate in English, and that the transferability of job skills was not an issue because Plaintiff did not have past relevant work. Tr. at 30. Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Id. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 7, 2013, the date the application was filed. Id. at 31.

         III. STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

         An ALJ must proceed through the required sequential steps for evaluating entitlement to social ...


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