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Polk v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 21, 2019

LAGERTA M. POLK PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Nancy A. Berryhill DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael T. Parker United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Lagerta M. Polk brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds the Commissioner's final decision should be affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income in January of 2015. Administrative R. [10] at 161-177. After the agency denied Plaintiff's application, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on April 5, 2017. Id. at 37-61. The ALJ considered Plaintiff's health issues relating to hypertension, lower-back pain, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Id. at 22. After the hearing, the ALJ issued an opinion finding that Plaintiff was not disabled and not entitled to benefits. Id. at 20. Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision. Id. at 1. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision and the ALJ's opinion was the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. This appeal followed.

         ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DECISION

         In her opinion, the ALJ applied the five-step analysis found in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(g)[1] and found that Plaintiff was not disabled according to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) definition. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful employment since September 13, 2013. Id. at 21.

         At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: hypertension, lower-back pain, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Id. at 22. These impairments were found to significantly interfere with Plaintiff's ability to perform work-related activity. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet the requirements of any listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. The ALJ considered how Plaintiff's obesity impacted her other impairments but found that none rose to the level of a listed impairment. Id. The ALJ further considered Plaintiff's mental impairments and whether they satisfied Listing 12.04 or 12.06. The ALJ considered the “Paragraph B” and “Paragraph C” criteria for these impairments and found that Plaintiff did not satisfy them. Id. 22-23. The ALJ further noted that mental limitations identified at step two and three are not equivalent to the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment at step four and five. Id. at 23-24.

         The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's RFC. She found that Plaintiff had the capacity to perform light work.[2] Id. at 24. Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds. She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She should never work around unprotected heights or dangerous moving mechanical parts. She can perform simple routine, repetitive tasks. She can occasionally interact with supervisors, co-workers and the general public.” Id.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform past-relevant work as a hotel housekeeper. Id. at 27. Working as a hotel housekeeper aligned with the ALJ's RFC assessment that Plaintiff could perform light work. Id. While the ALJ did not have to proceed to step five, as she found that Plaintiff could perform her past-relevant work, the ALJ further found that other work existed in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform such as photocopy-machine operator, cafeteria attendant, and advertising distributor. Id. at 28. After performing the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled and not entitled to disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Id. at 29.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court will only review the Commissioner's denial of benefits to determine if “(1) the final decision is supported by substantial evidence and (2) whether the Commissioner used the proper legal standards to evaluate the evidence.” Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448, 452 (5th Cir. 2000). The Commissioner's decision must be affirmed when there is substantial evidence to support the findings. Martinez v. Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 173 (5th Cir. 1995).

         “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. It is more than a mere scintilla and less than a preponderance.” Ripley v. Chater, 67 F.3d 552, 555 (5th Cir. 1995) (internal quotations omitted). Conflicts in evidence are the purview of the Commissioner and are not for the Court to resolve or review de novo. Selders v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 1990). Moreover, “‘[p]rocedural perfection in administrative proceedings is not required' as long as ‘the substantial rights of a ...


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