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Porter v. Berryhill

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

April 17, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Mae Robin Porter seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her claim for Title II Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), Widow's Insurance Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). After reviewing the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”), the administrative record, and the pleadings and joint memorandum submitted by the parties, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.


         Ms. Porter applied for disability benefits alleging disability beginning May 1, 2010. (Tr. 21, 247, 252, 257). Disability examiners denied Ms. Porter's application at the initial and reconsideration levels. (Tr. 162-73, 177-194). The ALJ held a hearing and, on May 17, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Ms. Porter not disabled. (Tr. 18-42). The Appeals Council denied Ms. Porter's request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 2-6). Ms. Porter now seeks review of the Commissioner's final decision in this court. (Doc. 1).


         A. Statement of the Case

         Ms. Porter was fifty-two years old on the alleged disability onset date and fifty-eight years old at the time of the hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 35). Ms. Porter has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a home health aide and a secretary. (Tr. 34-35, 288). Ms. Porter alleges disability due to hemeochromatosis, Hepatitis C, hyperthyroidism, bipolar disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, panic attacks, stress disorder, polysubstance dependence (in remission), and avoidant personality disorder. (Tr. 287).

         B. Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ must follow five steps in evaluating a claim of disability. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). First, if a claimant is working at a substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, then she does not have a severe impairment and is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); see also Jamison v. Bowen, 814 F.2d 585, 588 (11th Cir. 1987). Third, if a claimant's impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”), she is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). Fourth, if a claimant's impairments do not prevent her from doing past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At this fourth step, the ALJ determines a claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”).[1] Fifth, if a claimant's impairments (considering her RFC, age, education, and past work) prevent her from doing her past relevant work or other work that exists in the national economy, then she is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).

         Here, the ALJ determined Ms. Porter had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 24). The ALJ then concluded that Ms. Porter had the following severe impairments: Hepatitis C infection, hemochromatosis, thyroid disorder, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, polysubstance abuse in remission and social phobia. (Id.). Despite these findings, the ALJ found that Ms. Porter's impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of the Listings. (Tr. 25).

         The ALJ then found Ms. Porter had the RFC to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), [2] with the following limitations:

[Ms. Porter] cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can frequently climb stairs and ramps, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; [Ms. Porter] can understand and remember instructions, maintain concentration, pace and persistence, relate to other individuals, and adapt to work settings sufficiently to perform simple, repetitive work duties; [Ms. Porter] can only occasionally interact with other individuals including known clients and customers, coworkers, supervisors, and unknown members of the general public; [Ms. Porter] cannot perform fast-paced work, and cannot tolerate sudden changes to work setting or routine.

(Tr. 27). Based on this findings, the ALJ determined that Ms. Porter could not perform any of her past relevant work. (Tr. 34). However, the ALJ further determined that Ms. Porter could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, specifically as a cleaner, kitchen helper, and grounds keeper. (Tr. 35-36). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Porter was not disabled. (Tr. 36).

         III. ...

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