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Hall v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 22, 2017

PORTIA C. HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

         Plaintiff appeals the decision of Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner (the "Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration, which denied Plaintiffs application for Social Security disability insurance benefits ("DIB") or Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§401-34, 1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which grants original jurisdiction to the District Courts to review a final decision of the Commissioner.

         Presently pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and the Commissioner. (D.I. 13, D.I. 15).

         The motions were referred to the United States Magistrate Judge (D.I. 18), who issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that Plaintiffs motion be denied, and the Commissioner's motion be granted. (D.I. 19). Plaintiff filed objections (D.I. 20) to which the Commissioner has responded. (D.I. 21). I review the objections to the Report and Recommendation de novo. See Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Plaintiff has requested that the Court reverse the decision of the Commissioner and find her disabled, or in the alternative, remand this matter for further administrative proceedings. (D.I. 20 at 3). The challenge here is a narrow one. It concerns whether the ALJ misapplied agency guidelines. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiffs request.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         a. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on October 22, 2009. (D.I. 8-2 at 56). Her claims were denied initially on February 9, 2010, and denied again on reconsideration on July 1, 2010. (D.I. 8-3 at 103). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which occurred on July 20, 2011. (Id. at 99-115). The ALJ denied Plaintiffs claim. (Id.). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which resulted in the remand of Plaintiff s case back to the ALJ. (D.I. 8-3 at 116-121).

         The ALJ held the second hearing on January 30, 2014. (D.I. 8-2 at 27-52). Upon a second unfavorable decision, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, but her request was denied. (Id. at 4-8). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision.

         b. Plaintiffs Medical History

         At the time of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff was fifty-three years old. (D.I. 8-2 at 11). She has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a cafeteria worker, retail cashier, factory worker, and newspaper inserter. (Id.).

         The record and the Report and Recommendation each contain Plaintiffs detailed medical history. (D.I. 19 at 2-14). Because it is not directly relevant to Plaintiffs objections, it need not be included in this order.

         c. ALJ Decision

         On April 16, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (D.I. 8-2 at 9). In the decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) "except standing and/or walking for 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday; no more than occasional postural activities such as stopping, crouching, and crawling, except no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds." The ALJ cautioned Plaintiff to "avoid concentrated exposure to odors, fumes, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, vibration, and hazards, such as heights and moving machinery;" and found that "handling, fingering, [and] feeling [should be] limited to frequent as opposed to constant." (Id. at 15).

         Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could perform, and that Plaintiff was not disabled within ...


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