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Bennett v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

February 22, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT



         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Kurri Sky Bennett seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (SSI), 42 U.S.C. § 1381-1383f. The Commissioner found that Plaintiff was not under a disability since September 6, 2012, the date the application was filed. Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) and Memorandum (ECF No. 17), and the Commissioner has filed a Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 18). Having reviewed the administrative record, the submissions of the parties, and relevant law, the Court concludes that the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) is supported by substantial evidence and in accord with relevant legal standards. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment should be denied, and the decision of the Commissioner affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on September 6, 2012, alleging disability due to epilepsy, learning disabilities, and depression. (ECF No. 11, at 213). Plaintiff was 19 years old on the date the application was filed. She completed high school taking special education classes and received a certificate of completion but not a diploma. (ECF No. 11, at 34, 51, 64).

         Following denial of her claim initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. ALJ William Wallis held a hearing on February 3, 2014. Id. at 28-57. Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. A vocational expert (VE) and Plaintiff's mother also testified.

         On March 27, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled from September 6, 2012, through the date of the decision. Id. at 23. The ALJ utilized the five-step sequential evaluation process to find Plaintiff not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a).[1] At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. Id. at 15. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments of a seizure disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, an affective/mood disorder, and an anxiety disorder. Id. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's severe impairments did not meet the requirements for presumptive disability under the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at 16-18.

         Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations:

Cannot be exposed to unprotected heights or moving machinery; cannot engage in commercial driving as a job requirement; can understand, remember, and carry out simple tasks and instructions; can attend, concentrate, and persist for two-hour periods; can at least occasionally interact with supervisors and coworkers; can complete a normal workweek without interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms; and can respond appropriately to at least occasional workplace changes.

Id. at 18.

         The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause some of the alleged symptoms but Plaintiff's “statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible . . .” Id. at 20.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past relevant work experience. Id. at 22. At step five, the ALJ relied upon the VE's testimony to find Plaintiff capable of performing simple, unskilled work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically dishwasher (850, 000 jobs nationally), hand packager (300, 000 jobs nationally), and assembler (6, 000 jobs nationally). Id. at 22-23.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the March 27, 2014, decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 5-7. Plaintiff timely commenced this suit seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Because both parties have consented under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct all of the proceedings in this case, the undersigned has the authority to issue this opinion and the accompanying final judgment.

         Review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to an inquiry into whether there is substantial evidence on the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner and whether the correct legal standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Falco v. Shalala, 27 F.3d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1994). A'[S]ubstantial evidence' is less than a preponderance but more than a scintilla." Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence ''must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established, but 'no substantial evidence' will be found only where there is a 'conspicuous absence of credible choices' or 'no contrary medical evidence.''' Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988)(quoting Hames v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 162, 164 (5th Cir. 1983)).

         Conflicts in the evidence are for the Commissioner to resolve. If the Commissioner's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, they are conclusive and must be affirmed. Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). The Court may not reweigh the evidence, try the issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's, "even if the evidence preponderates against the [Commissioner's] decision. Bowling, 36 F.3d at 434.

         III. DISCUSSION A. Listing 12.05(C)

         At step three, the Commissioner considers the medical severity of the claimant's impairment(s) and determines whether the impairment(s) ''meets or equals'' a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R. ' 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d). Plaintiff ...

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