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Poll v. Berryhill

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

August 30, 2017

MARY POLL, 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 Mary Poll (“Plaintiff”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). ECF Dkt. #1. In her brief on the merits, filed on November 21, 2016, Plaintiff asserts that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred by: (1) finding that she did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.05C; and (2) relying on vocational expert (“VE”) testimony that was inconsistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”). ECF Dkt. #15. Defendant filed a response brief on January 18, 2017. ECF Dkt. #17. On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt. #18.

         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 applications for DIB and SSI in May 2013. ECF Dkt. #12 (“Tr.”) at 225-35.[2] The claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Following the denial, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on March 16, 2015. Id. at 40. On April 15, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff’s applications for DIB and SSI. Id. at 14. 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 April 15, 2015, stands as the final decision.

         On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ’s decision. ECF Dkt. #1. Plaintiff filed a brief on the merits on November 21, 2016. ECF Dkt. #15. Defendant filed a response brief on January 18, 2017. ECF Dkt. #17. On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt. #18.

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

         In the decision issued on April 15, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. Tr. at 20. Continuing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 1, 2011, the alleged onset date. Id. The ALJ then stated that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees with a history of bilateral knee arthroscopies; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; hyperlipidemia; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome with a history of bilateral carpal tunnel release procedures; obesity; attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADD/ADHD”); dysthymic disorder; major depression; borderline intellectual functioning/mild mental retardation; reading disorder; and mathematics disorder. Id.

         Next, 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. Tr. at 21. When 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, or full scale IQ of sixty through seventy and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation of function. Id. at 24. The ALJ indicated that although Plaintiff demonstrated a verbal IQ score of sixty-eight and a full scale IQ score of sixty-five, along with additional impairments, she did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.05C for a number of reasons. Id. First, the ALJ stated that the preamble of Listing 12.05C required that evidence must support a finding that there were intellectual deficits prior to the age of twenty-two. Id. The ALJ then indicated that the IQ scores were obtained when Plaintiff was forty-nine years old. Id. Additionally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the requirement of deficits in adaptive functioning, as she was able to: obtain a driver’s license; maintain income above substantial gainful activity levels for approximately fifteen years; raise two children; maintain her home independently; manage her finances; and use the Internet. Id. For these reasons, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.05C. Id.

         After considering the record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than a full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with the following additional limitations: occasional postural activities such as crouching, crawling, stooping, kneeling, and climbing; limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; instructions should be verbally explained and work should not require reading, writing, or more than basic mathematics; pace and productivity should not be dictated by an external source over which she had no control, such as an assembly line or conveyor belt; the ability to make judgments on simple work and respond appropriately to usual work situations and changes in a routine work setting that was repetitive from day to day with few and expected changes; and no contact with the public, but she may have occasional interactions with supervisors and coworkers. Tr. at 25.

         After discussing Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ indicated that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr. at 31. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff was a younger individual on the alleged disability onset date, and subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age. Id. Continuing, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff had a limited education, was able to communicate in English, and that the transferability of job skills was not an issue because Plaintiff’s past relevant work was unskilled. Id. at 32. Considering Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Id. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from April 1, 2011, the alleged disability onset date, through the date of the decision. Id. at 33.

         III. STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

         An ALJ must proceed through the required sequential steps for evaluating entitlement to social security benefits. These steps are:

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be “disabled” regardless of medical findings (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b) (1992));
2. An individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found to be “disabled” (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c) (1992));
3. If an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration requirement, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509 and 416.909 (1992), and which meets or is equivalent to a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, a finding of disabled will be made without consideration of vocational factors (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d) (1992));
4. If an individual is capable of performing the kind of work he or she has done in the past, a finding of “not disabled” must be made (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) (1992));
5. If an individual’s impairment is so severe as to preclude the performance of the kind of work he or she has done in the past, other factors including age, education, past work experience and residual functional capacity must be considered to determine if other work can be performed (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f) (1992)).

         Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328, 332 (6th Cir. 1992). The claimant has the burden to go forward with the evidence in the first four steps and the Commissioner has the burden in the fifth ...


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