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Jackson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 6, 2017

SHELL JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Shell Jackson seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that she is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1962, has a high-school education, and previously worked as a program management analyst and payroll clerk. R. at 20-21. Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on February 3, 2012, alleging disability beginning on August 1, 2008, due to, among other things, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, diabetes, pain, high blood pressure, liver disorder, and fatigue. R. at 14, 136-39, 160, 172. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 43-66, 69-72. On April 22, 2014, ALJ Jeffrey M. Jordan held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 23-42. On May 29, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of August 1, 2008, through the date last insured of December 31, 2013. R. at 11-22. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 16, 2015. R. at 1-10. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On December 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

         II Summary of Evidence

         The Court reviews here and in Part VI below Plaintiff's relevant medical evidence.

         A. State Agency Medical Consultants

         On April 11, 2012, a state agency medical consultant, S.K. Najar, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 48-49. Dr. Najar opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling. R. at 48. Plaintiff frequently could balance, and she occasionally could climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 48-49. Although Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, or communicative limitations, she was to avoid even moderate exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights. R. at 49. On October 3, 2012, another state agency consultant, W. Hakkarinen, M.D., expressed the same opinion about Plaintiff's physical RFC. R. at 58-60.

         B. Hearing Testimony

         1. Plaintiff's Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:

[Plaintiff] alleges that she is unable to work, due to her physical impairments. [Plaintiff] testified that she stopped working, due to pain from fibromyalgia and she alleged that this caused her to miss one to two days of work per week. She also testified that she cannot hold her 11-pound grandchild, and she experiences swelling two to three times per week. [Plaintiff] contended that she experiences two bad days per week, where she just lies in bed.

R. at 18; see R. at 27-38.

         2.VE Testimony

         The VE testified that a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's same age, education, and work experience with the RFC outlined below in Part III could perform Plaintiff's past relevant work and also could perform the sedentary jobs of appointment clerk, information clerk, and service dispatcher.[3] R. at 39-40. With the exception of her testimony regarding a sit-stand option, the VE's testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.[4] R. ...


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