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Bradley-Bell v. Berryhill

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

June 13, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Patricia Bradley-Bell seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her claim for supplemental security income (SSI) and disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g). After reviewing the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the administrative record, and the pleadings and joint memorandum submitted by the parties, the Commissioner's decision is REMANDED for further consideration consistent with this order.


         Ms. Bradley-Bell protectively filed a Title II application for a period of disability, DIB, and protectively filed a Title XVI application for SSI on December 29, 2014. (Tr. 267-281). In both applications, Ms. Bradley-Bell alleged disability beginning November 1, 2014. Id. The claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels, and Ms. Bradley-Bell timely requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on July 31, 2017. (Tr. 156, 33-57). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to Ms. Bradley-Bell on October 6, 2017. (Tr. 33-57). Ms. Bradley-Bell then requested review from the Appeals Council, which was denied. (Tr. 1-6). Ms. Bradley-Bell timely filed a complaint with this court. (Doc. 1). This case is now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         A. Statement of the Case

         Ms. Bradley-Bell was born in November 1965 and completed high school. (Tr. 21). She also attained post-secondary education and earned a bachelor's degree. (Tr. 37). Ms. Bradley-Bell has past relevant work as a data entry clerk and a pastoral assistant. (Tr. 21). She alleged disability beginning November 1, 2014 due to back injury; arthritis; chronic pain from surgery and mobility problems; pain, numbness and swelling in her legs and hands; and high blood pressure. (Tr. 41-46, 293).

         B. Summary of ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ must follow five steps when evaluating a claim for disability.[1] 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). First, if a claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, [2] she is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Second, if a claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit her physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities, then she does not have a severe impairment and is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); see McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1031 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating that step two acts as a filter and “allows only claims based on the most trivial impairments to be rejected”). Third, if a claimant's impairments fail to meet or equal an impairment included in the Listings, she is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. 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 the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC).[3]Fifth, if a claimant's impairments (considering her RFC, age, education, and past work) do not prevent her from performing other work that exists in the national economy, she is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).

         Here, the ALJ determined Ms. Bradley-Bell has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 16). The ALJ then concluded Ms. Bradley-Bell has severe impairments, including degenerative disk disease or degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine, and obesity. Id. Despite these findings, the ALJ found Ms. Bradley-Bell's impairments or combination of impairments failed to meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment included in the Listings. Id.

         The ALJ then determined Ms. Bradley-Bell had the RFC to perform sedentary work, within the following limitations:

[Ms. Bradley-Bell] is able to lift ten pounds occasionally; stand or walk for approximately two hours and sit for approximately six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. She can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl. She should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards.

(Tr. 16-17). Based on Ms. Bradley-Bell's RFC and the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ found she is able to perform her past relevant work, and she acquired work skills from past relevant work that are transferable to other occupations with jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 21). Therefore, the ALJ found Ms. Bradley-Bell not disabled. (Tr. 22-23).

         III. ...

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