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Cope v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

February 15, 2019

SANDRA D. COPE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS E. ROGERS, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is an action brought pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a “final decision” of the Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB). The only issues before the Court are whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards have been applied.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on May 25, 2014, alleging inability to work since May 20, 2013. (Tr. 21). Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing. A hearing was held on August 11, 2016, at which time Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. (Tr. 21). The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision on October 5, 2016, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 21-33). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council denied on August 16, 2017, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed this action on October 17, 2017. (ECF No. 1).

         B. Plaintiff's Background

         Plaintiff was born on August 13, 1963, and was forty-nine years old at the time of the alleged onset. (Tr. 31). Plaintiff had at least a high school education and had past relevant work experience as a machine operator. (Tr. 31). Plaintiff alleges disability originally due to stage 1 breast cancer, weak heart, tachycardia, lymphodema, degenerative arthritis in neck and back, and right shoulder impingement and possible tear. (Tr. 75-76).

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         In the decision of October 5, 2016, the ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law (Tr. 21-33):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 20, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: spine disorder; fibromyalgia; dysfunction of the right shoulder; and obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of' the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except for the following additional limitations. The claimant is never able to climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, or stairs. She is able to frequently balance; occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl; and perform occasional light overhead reaching. She is able to have frequent exposure to extreme cold and vibration, to the use of moving machinery, and to exposure to unprotected heights.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on August 13, 1963 and was 49 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 20, 2013, through the date of ...

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