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Jones v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 7, 2018

Merrill E. Jones, Plaintiff,
v.
Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, appearing pro se, seeks review under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the Acting Commissioner's denial of her claim for disability insurance benefits. Pending are plaintiff's motion for judgment of reversal [Dkt. # 18] and defendant's motion for judgment of affirmance [Dkt. # 19]. Upon consideration of the pleadings, the Administrative Record (“AR”) [Dkt. # 11], and the relevant legal authorities, the Court finds that the administrative decision is supported by substantial evidence and comports with applicable law. Accordingly, the Court will grant defendant's motion and deny plaintiff's motion for the reasons explained more fully below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are taken from the April 23, 2015 Decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), AR 14-26 [Dkt. # 11-2]. On May 26, 2011, at age 57, plaintiff filed a claim for disability insurance benefits, alleging the onset of disability as of December 1, 2004 (protective filing date). On November 29, 2011, the Acting Regional Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim, resulting from “bladder and cancer stage I, ” upon finding that “[t]he medical evidence shows that there are no problems related to your bladder which would limit your ability to work” and “showed no signs of cancer.” AR 114 [Dkt. # 11-4]. The Regional Commissioner concluded from the medical information and plaintiff's “age, education, training, and work experience” that plaintiff could perform her self-described “past work” and suggested that she file another application if her condition worsened. Id. The agency denied plaintiff's request for reconsideration on December 6, 2012. AR 121-124. In doing so, the agency listed in addition to stage 1 bladder cancer “mental stress and hypertension” as disabling conditions and explained: “The medical evidence shows that your condition results in some limitations in your ability to perform work related activities. However these limitations do not prevent you from performing work you have done in the past as financial management specialist as you described.” AR 121.

         On February 27, 2015, plaintiff appeared before an ALJ for a hearing where she was represented by counsel. Plaintiff testified as did an impartial vocational expert. “After careful consideration of the entire record, ” the ALJ found:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity throughout the following years: 2006, 2007, and 2013. (20 CFR 1520(b) and 404.1571 et seq.).
3. However, there has been a continuous 12-month period(s) during which the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity. The remaining findings address the period(s) the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity.
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Residual of bladder cancer with overactive bladder; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; hypertension; and obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
5. The 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), 404.1525 and 404.1526.
6. [T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except that she cannot climb stairs, ropes, or scaffolds; cannot crawl; should avoid exposure to extreme cold and extreme heat; and should avoid concentrated exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, and gases.
7. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as an account clerk, cashier, and pharmacy technician. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
8. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 1, 2004, through the date of this decision [on April 23, 2015] (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

AR 19, 21, 25. The ALJ provided detailed explanations of each finding, citing plaintiff's medical records, testimony and other statements, and the impartial vocational ...


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