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Bergeron v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 8, 2018

ROBIN A. BERGERON
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

         SECTION “J” (4)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN WELLS ROBY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is an action brought pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“SSA”), denying Robin A. Bergeron's (“Bergeron”) claim for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. The matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.2(B), for the submission of Proposed Findings and Recommendations.

         I. Factual Summary and Procedural History

          Bergeron was a 48-year old female with three years of college education and who worked as an account representative and office manager. R. Doc. 12-6, Tr. 207-209. She has been diagnosed with neuropathy, a hip condition, brain swelling, arthritis, depression, a dislodged elbow, and back trouble. Id. Bergeron claims that her disability began on June 10, 2005. R. Doc. 12-5, Tr. 177, 184. Bergeron filed an application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits on July 7, 2014 (R. Doc. 12-5, Tr. 177-182), which was denied on October 10, 2014. R. Doc. 12-3, Tr. 73-79. She filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on January 22, 2015. R. Doc. 12-5, Tr. 183-187.

         Bergeron requested a hearing before the administrative law judge, which took place on September 30, 2015. R. Doc. 12-2, Tr. 52-72. A supplemental hearing took place on March 25, 2016. Id., Tr. 34-51. The ALJ found that Bergeron had not been engaged in substantial gainful activity since the onset date and that she met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011. R. Doc. 12-2, Tr. 13. Bergeron, according to the ALJ, has degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, and neuritis. Id. The ALJ found that since the alleged onset date of June 10, 2005, Bergeron does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. R. Doc. 11-2, Tr. 14.

         The ALJ held that since June 10, 2005, Bergeron had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, but with the following non-exertional limitations: no reaching above shoulder level bilaterally; avoiding all exposure to hazards, such as moving machinery and unprotected heights; and no jobs requiring her to read fine print. Id. The ALJ further held that since June 10, 2005, Bergeron has not been able to perform any past relevant work. R. Doc. 12-2, Tr. 16.

         The ALJ also held that before the established disability onset day, Bergeron was a younger individual aged 45-49. Id., Tr. 17. On April 26, 2016, her age category changed to an individual closely approaching advanced age. Id. The ALJ found that Bergeron has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. Id. The ALJ also noted that before April 26, 2016, transferability of job skills was not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that Bergeron is not disabled, whether or not she had transferable job skills. Id. The ALJ also noted that on April 26, 2016, Bergeron was not able to transfer her job skills to other occupations. Id.

         The ALJ further held that prior to April 26, 2016, the date that the claimant's age category changed, considering her age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed. Id. The ALJ noted that, according to the vocational expert, Bergeron could have worked as: (1) a surveillance system monitor, which had 15, 593 jobs in the national economy and 187 jobs in the local region; (2) a hand packer, a sedentary, unskilled job with about 20, 949 jobs in the national economy and 120 jobs in the local region; or (3) a sorter with about 11, 890 jobs in the national economy and 162 jobs in the local region. Id., Tr. 18.

         The ALJ held that beginning on April 26, 2016, considering Bergeron's age change, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the she could perform. Id. The ALJ held that while Bergeron was not disabled before April 26, 2016, she became disabled on that date and continued to be disabled through the date of his decision. Id., Tr. 19. Lastly, the ALJ held that Bergeron was not under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time through December 31, 2011, the last date she was insured. Id.

         On September 15, 2017, Bergeron filed a complaint in this court contending that the ALJ's decision is not based upon substantial evidence. R. Doc. 1. Bergeron contends that the opinion lacks substantial evidence because: (1) the ALJ gave improper weight to the opinion of her primary care physician, Dr. Robert Post; and (2) the ALJ's finding that her disability began on April 26, 2016, is not supported by substantial evidence and the correct onset date of her disability was August 6, 2014. R. Doc. 13.

         The Commissioner contends that because Bergeron became disabled after her insured status expired, she is not entitled to benefits and her eligibility for benefits from January 1, 2012 through April of 2014 is moot. R. Doc. 16. The Commissioner contends that the ALJ properly evaluated Dr. Post's opinion. Id. The Commissioner also contends that the ALJ properly relied on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines to find her disabled. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

          The role of this Court on judicial review under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to determining whether: (1) the final decision is supported by substantial evidence; and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards when evaluating the evidence. See Brown v. Apfel, 192 F.3d 492, 496 (5th Cir. 1999). The Court may not re-weigh the evidence, try issues de novo, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Allen v. Schweiker, 642 F.2d 799, 800 (5th Cir. 1981). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's findings are conclusive and must be affirmed. Houston v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1012, 1016 (5th Cir. 1989).

         Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and less than a preponderance, and is considered relevant such that a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established, but no “substantial evidence” will be found only where there is a “conspicuous absence of credible choices” or “contrary medical ...


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