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Brown v. Berryhill

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

May 24, 2019

AMYTHYST BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting COMMISSIONER OF Social Security ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          JACK ZOUHARY JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          GEORGE J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Amythyst Brown (“Plaintiff”), pro se, 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. Plaintiff executed a brief on the merits on October 6, 2018, which was filed on October 12, 2018. ECF Dkt. #12. Defendant filed a merits brief on January 28, 2019. ECF Dkt. #15.

         For the following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Court AFFIRM the decision of the ALJ and dismiss Plaintiff's case in its entirety with prejudice.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on October 14, 2014, alleging disability beginning on November 9, 2012. ECF Dkt. #10 at 187-199. Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 123-150. Following the denial, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on August 19, 2016 Id. at 151-165. Plaintiff appeared pro se at the hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 45. On March 23, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision and denied Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. Id. at 14. On February 20, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Id. at 1-4.

         On April 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. Plaintiff's brief on the merits was due on or before July 22, 2018. ECF Dkt. #11. On September 25, 2018, Plaintiff had still not submitted her brief, and the undersigned issued an order for the Plaintiff to show cause on or before October 9, 2018 why the undersigned should not recommend dismissal of the case due to Plaintiff's failure to prosecute. Id. Plaintiff executed a brief on the merits on October 6, 2018, which was filed on October 12, 2018. ECF Dkt. ##11, 12. Defendant filed a merits brief on January 28, 2019. ECF Dkt. #15.

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

         In her March 23, 2017 decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 9, 2012, her alleged onset date. ECF Dkt. # 10 at 19. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anxiety disorder; depressive disorder; personality disorder with antisocial traits; and a history of polysubstance abuse in reported partial remission (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.92(c)). Id. at 19-20. The ALJ found that the Plaintiff's hypothyroidism and joint pain impairments were non-severe. Id. at 20. Continuing, 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. at 20-22.

         After considering the record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: she is limited to performing simple, routine tasks, with no production pace work; she should have no more than frequent interaction with the public, coworkers, and supervisors; she should be expected to adjust to no more than minimal changes in work settings or work requirements. Id. at 22. Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff can perform a significant variety of jobs that exist in the national economy. Id. at 27. In conclusion, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 9, 2012 through March 23, 2017. Id.

         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. §§ ...

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