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Luis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 8, 2017

JOYCE LUIS, Petitioner,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1]Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Currently pending before the Court is Joyce Luis's Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits, filed on May 9, 2016. (Dkt. 1.) The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the parties' memoranda, and the administrative record (AR), and for the reasons that follow, will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on September 13, 2012. This application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was held on June 9, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gilbert Alejandro Martinez. After hearing testimony from Petitioner, a medical expert, and a vocational expert, ALJ Martinez issued a decision on July 25, 2014, finding Petitioner not disabled. Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on March 4, 2016.

         Petitioner appealed this final decision to the Court. The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         At the time of the amended onset date of June 22, 2013, Petitioner was fifty years of age. She completed the ninth grade. Her prior work experience includes work as a cashier, construction worker, waitress, cook, child monitor, and nurse aide.

         SEQUENTIAL PROCESS

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. The ALJ found Petitioner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged amended onset date of June 22, 2013.

         At step two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's left shoulder disorder; arthritis of her knees; obesity; depression; and anxiety severe within the meaning of the Regulations.

         Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria for the listed impairments, specifically considering Listing 1.00 for her musculoskeletal impairments and Listing 12.04 for affective disorder.

         If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine, at step four, whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. In assessing Petitioner's functional capacity, the ALJ determines whether Petitioner's complaints about the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her pain are credible. Here, the ALJ found Petitioner's complaints about the intensity and persistence of her pain not entirely credible. The ALJ reconciled the opinions of state agency physicians with the testifying medical expert, Kendrick Morrison, M.D. The ALJ gave the state agency physicians' opinions more weight than the testifying medical expert, based upon treatment history or inconsistencies with the record as a whole.

         The ALJ next determined Petitioner retained the ability to perform light work, with limitations on lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, sitting a total of six hours and standing a total of six hours in an eight-hour work day; limited reaching with the left arm; avoidance of hazardous work environments; and performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks with simple work related decisions. (AR 24.)

         The ALJ found Petitioner retained the ability to perform her past relevant work as a cashier. Alternatively, the ALJ proceeded to step five. The burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate, at step five, that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant levels in the national economy, after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education and work experience. Here, the ALJ found Petitioner retained the ability to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as circuit board assembler, a light/unskilled job with 47, 000 jobs available in the national economy. Consequently, the ALJ determined Petitioner was not disabled.

         STANDARD ...


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