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Nelson v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 17, 2015

DEBORAH PIDGEON NELSON
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Section:

ORDER AND REASONS

IVAN L.R. LEMELLE, District Jduge.

I. Nature of Motion and Relief Sought

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.[1] Plaintiff, Deborah Nelson ("Nelson"), seeks review of the Magistrate Judge's decision upholding the denial of her claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[2]

Having considered Nelson's objections, the cross motions for summary judgment filed by both Nelson and Defendant Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the record, and the applicable law, for the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and DENIES Nelson's motion for summary judgment.[3]

Procedural History

Deborah Pidgeon Nelson, Plaintiff herein, filed the subject application for DIB with the Social Security Administration on September 28, 2011, alleging disability as of March 31, 2010.[4] In a "Disability Report-Adult" form that appears in the administrative record below, the conditions resulting in Plaintiff's inability to work were identified as lupus and chiari malformation.[5] On October 12, 2011, Plaintiff's application for DIB was denied at the initial level of the Commissioner's administrative review process.[6]

Pursuant to Plaintiff's request, a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") went forward on May 29, 2012, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified.[7] On June 26, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision, concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.[8]

The Appeals Council ("AC") subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on September 6, 2013, thus making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.[9] It is from that unfavorable decision that the Plaintiff seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

In her cross-motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff frames the issues for judicial review as follows:

I. THE ALJ FAILED TO APPLY THE CORRECT LEGAL STANDARD IN FINDING THAT PLAINTIFF'S CHIARI MALFORMATION WAS NOT A SEVERE IMPAIRMENT.
II. THE ALJ DID NOT APPLY THE CORRECT LEGAL STANDARD IN ASSESSING PLAINTIFF'S RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY AND THE FINDING IS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.
III. THE ALJ FAILED TO APPLY THE PROPER LEGAL STANDARD TO DETERMINE THE CREDIBILITY OF THE PLAINTIFF.[10]

Relevant to a resolution of those issues are the following findings made by the ALJ:

1. [t]he claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. [t]he claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2010, the alleged onset dated (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
3. [t]he claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. [t]he claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. [a]fter careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work, generally defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) as work requiring lifting/carrying no more than 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, and no more than 6 hours of standing/walking in an 8 hour workday.
6. [t]he claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as an administrative clerk. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. [t]he claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 31, 2010, through the date of this ...

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