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Teague v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

December 19, 2017



          JULIE S. SNEED, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Colleen Teague seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. As the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision was based on substantial evidence and employed proper legal standards, the decision is affirmed.[1]


         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability on August 23, 2013. (Tr. 168.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims both initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 96, 104.) Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing. (Tr. 109.) Upon Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared and testified. (Tr. 29-77.) Following the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled and accordingly denied Plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 10-23.) Subsequently, Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which the Appeals Council denied. (Tr. 1-5.) Plaintiff then timely filed a complaint with this Court. (Dkt. 1). The case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         B. Factual Background and the ALJ's Decision

         Plaintiff, who was born in 1961, claimed disability beginning on March 3, 2014. (Tr. 168, 187.) Plaintiff has a high school education. (Tr. 35.) Plaintiff's past relevant work experience included work as a hairdresser, medical transcriber, cafeteria attendant, and food server. (Tr. 69.) Plaintiff alleged disability due to degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, numbness in her hands, curvature of her spine, back pain, and a weak right side/hip. (Tr. 211.)

         In rendering the decision, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not performed substantial gainful activity since March 3, 2014, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 15.) After conducting a hearing and reviewing the evidence of record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, chronic venous insufficiency, fibromyalgia, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and a history of marijuana use. (Tr. 15.) Notwithstanding the noted impairments, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 16.) The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff retained a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to light work with limitations. (Tr. 17.)

         Specifically, the ALJ found the following:

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), including the ability to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, and sit 6 hours, 3 hours at a time, and stand and/or walk 6 hours, 1 hour at a time, in an 8-hour workday. She can frequently reach, handle, finger, feel, push, and pull with the bilateral upper extremities. She can frequently operate foot controls with the bilateral lower extremities. She can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid all exposure to unprotected heights, temperature extremes, and vibration. She must also avoid even moderate exposure to moving machinery, humidity and wetness, and pulmonary irritants. Finally, she is limited to simple, routine tasks.

(Tr. 17.) In formulating Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined that, although the evidence established the presence of underlying impairments that reasonably could be expected to produce the symptoms alleged, Plaintiff's statements as to the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not fully credible. (Tr. 18.)

         Considering Plaintiff's noted impairments and the assessment of a vocational expert (“VE”), however, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work. (Tr. 21.) Given Plaintiff's background and RFC, the VE testified that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as a parking lot cashier, hand packager, and bagger. (Tr. 22.) Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 22.)


         To be entitled to benefits, a claimant must be disabled, meaning that the claimant must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A “physical or mental impairment” is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological ...

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