United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
PERCY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Alisha Joy Glissen has applied for judicial review under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Commissioner of Social
Security's decision denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title III of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423.
Docket 1. Plaintiff filed an application for benefits on
August 10, 2012, alleging disability beginning on July 20,
2012. Docket 7 at 164-65.
agency administratively denied Plaintiff's claim
initially on October 24, 2012 and on reconsideration on
December 18, 2012. Id. at 111-13, 116-17. Plaintiff
then requested an administrative hearing, which
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Rebecca Sartor held on June
11, 2014. Id. at 119-20, 125-27. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on August 25, 2014. Id. at
39-49. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on April 11, 2016. Id. at 1-4. Plaintiff
timely filed this appeal from the April 11, 2016 decision,
the undersigned held a hearing on January 19, 2017, and it is
now ripe for review.
both parties have consented to a magistrate judge conducting
all the proceedings in this case as provided in 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to issue
this opinion and the accompanying Final Judgment. Docket 10.
was born on November 25, 1980, and was 33 at the time of the
ALJ hearing. Docket 7 at 164. Plaintiff contends she became
disabled as a result of lupus and that she additionally
suffers from Raynaud's syndrome, hyperthyroidism,
rheumatoid arthritis, acid reflux, photosensitive dermatitis,
and bad nerves. Id. at 62, 64, 68-70, 77-82.
Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that she qualifies for
disability under either part of the Listing for systemic
lupus erythematosus (SLE), Section 14.02. Id. at 62.
ALJ hearing, Plaintiff provided testimony about each of the
following medical conditions from which she claims to suffer:
arthritis (Id. at 64-67); Reynaud's syndrome
(Id. at 79); hypothyroidism (Id. at 68);
anxiety/nervousness (Id. at 68-69, 80-81); rash
(Id. at 70, 76-78); lupus (Id. at 62-63,
80-81, 83-84); and acid reflux (Id. at 81-82).
Plaintiff testified that she experiences knots and swelling
in her hands and feet and swelling in her ankles and knees
making it difficult to walk and preventing her from bending
over or stopping down. Id. at 64-67. According to
Plaintiff, it is “hard to just function on [her]
own.” Id. at 64. at 64-65. She stated that her
hands and feet swell daily; her knees swell three to four
times a week; her ankles swell almost daily; she feels
nauseous almost every day; and she experiences a
“bad” outbreak of these symptoms three to four
times a week. Id. at 66.
testified that sunlight and heat aggravate her skin causing a
burning and itching rash to appear on her arms, with knots on
her hands and bumps on the back of her legs and bottom.
Id. at 70, 76-78. These knots bleed easily and the
blood does not clot well. Id. at 76. She testified
that Reynaud's syndrome causes a loss of sensation and
change in color in her hands in cold weather, and further
causes numbness and tingling in her hands and wrists.
Id. at 79. Her hypothyroidism and lupus cause
constant fatigue; the lupus continually flares up and
Plaintiff's only reprieve comes with temporary
relaxations of the flare. Id. at 68, 80, 83.
Plaintiff stated that the lupus medication controls her
platelet levels but that she still experiences the other
symptoms. Id. at 84. Plaintiff testified that she
experiences acid reflux around eight times a month with each
episode lasting around a day-and-a-half during which she
experiences nausea and throwing up. Id. at 81-82.
established that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 20, 2012, the alleged onset date.
Id. at 41. Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
experienced the severe impairments of systemic lupus
erythematosus, Raynaud's disease, thyroid disorder, GERD
(gastroesophageal reflux disease), and anxiety, but that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal a
listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. (404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526). Id. at
41-43. Specifically, the ALJ discussed how each of
Plaintiff's severe impairments do not meet or medically
equal the listing criteria for lupus, thyroid disorder, GERD,
or anxiety. Id. at 41-42.
Plaintiff's severe impairments, ALJ found that
Plaintiff's demonstrated abilities were consistent with a
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work.
Id. at 43. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could
“occasionally climb ramps and stairs; occasionally
balance, stoop, crouch, kneel and crawl; [could not] climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and should avoid even moderate
exposure to hazards, such as unprotected heights, moving
machinery and automotive equipment.” Id. at
43. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff “should avoid
moderate exposure to temperature extremes, humidity and
vibration” and could “occasionally interact with
coworkers” but could have “no interaction with
the public.” Id.
on a review of the record in conjunction with Plaintiff's
allegations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's
“allegations are disproportionate to the objective
medical evidence.” Id. at 46. The ALJ found
that Plaintiff's “medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms; however [her] statements concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not
entirely credible.” Id. at 44.
determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
precludes her ability to perform past relevant work, and her
ability to perform the full range of sedentary work is
impeded by additional limitations. Id. at 49. Having
questioned the vocational expert (VE) regarding whether jobs
existed in the national economy for an individual of the
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, the ALJ noted the VE's testimony
that given those factors, Plaintiff could perform the
requirements of occupations such as surveillance system
monitor, eye glass inserter, and assembler. Id. The
ALJ ultimately ruled that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July
20, 2012, through August 25, 2014, the date of the ALJ's
claims that the ALJ failed to properly consider all the
record evidence in determining that she did not meet the
requirement for Listing 14.02 and that the Appeals Counsel
failed to properly consider medical evidence submitted after
the hearing date. Docket 13 at 3.
determining disability, the Commissioner, through the ALJ,
works through a five-step sequential evaluation
process. The burden rests upon the plaintiff
throughout the first four steps of this five-step process to
prove disability, and if the plaintiff is successful in
sustaining her burden at each of the first four levels, then
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step
five.First, the plaintiff must prove she is not
currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity.Second, the plaintiff must prove her
impairment is “severe” in that it
“significantly limits [her] physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities . . . .” At step three the
ALJ must conclude that plaintiff is disabled if she proves
that her impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one
of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
App. 1, §§ 1.00-114.09 (2010).If the plaintiff
does not meet this burden, at step four she must prove that
she is incapable of meeting the physical and mental demands
of her past relevant work. At step five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to prove, considering the plaintiff's
residual functional capacity, age, education and past work
experience, that she is capable of performing other
work. If the Commissioner proves other work
exists which the plaintiff can perform, plaintiff is given
the chance to prove that she cannot, in fact, perform that
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny
benefits is limited to determining whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standard. Crowley
v. Apfel,197 F.3d 194, 196 (5th Cir. 1999),
citing Austin v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1170
(5th Cir. 1993); Villa v. Sullivan, 895
F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1990). The court has the
responsibility to scrutinize the entire record to determine
whether the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial
evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied
in reviewing the claim. Ransom v. Heckler, 715 F.2d
989, 992 (5th Cir. 1983). A court has limited
power of ...