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Kathy Laughlin v. Commissioner of Social Security

March 27, 2012

KATHY LAUGHLIN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on January 11, 2006. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on December 26, 2005. Plaintiff claims that disability is caused by a combination of degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, polyarthralgia, stage 2 fibrosis of the liver, bipolar disorder, depression, and Hepatitis C. Plaintiff claims these impairments give rise to ". . . multiple symptoms, including chronic pain, numbness and tingling in the arms, lift/carry/reach limitations, manipulative limitations, migraine headaches, anxiety, the need to shift positions at will, the need to lie down almost every day for an hour or more." Plaintiff adds that she ". . . suffers from markedly impaired concentration, persistence, and pace; markedly impaired ability to deal with the public, supervisors, and co-workers; and markedly [limited] ability to deal with work stresses." Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 7, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mark C. Ramsey. In a July 14, 2008, partially favorable decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. At all relevant times, the claimant has had the following severe impairments: Hepatitis C, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, and depression;

2. From December 29, 2005, through April 1, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in the regulations;

3. From December 29, 2005, through April 1, 2008, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform unskilled sedentary work except that she would require frequent unscheduled rest breaks and would likely miss four or more days of work per month due to fatigue from her impairments;

4. From December 29, 2005, through April 1, 2008, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were no jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed;

5. The claimant was disabled from December 29, 2005, through April 1, 2008;

6. As of April 2, 2008, medical improvement related to the claimant's ability to work occurred and, as a result, plaintiff's disability ended;

7. Beginning April 2, 2008, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medical equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations;

8. Beginning on April 2, 2008, the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of unskilled work except that she should not work in an environment with concentrated levels of dust or fumes; and

9. Beginning on April 2, 2008, the claimant has been capable of performing her past relevant work as a cashier.

After the Appeals Council declined review on September 24, 2010, this appeal followed.

II. SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE

As indicated above, the ALJ found that plaintiff was disabled for a period of time through April 1, 2008, but that for the period beginning April 2, 2008, plaintiff had improved and was no longer disabled. Thus, the only relevant evidence in this case is evidence of plaintiff's medical condition and functional limitations, if any, as of April 2, 2008, and after. For this period, the ALJ noted: ...


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